THE WORLD BEHIND THE PITCH- MATCH FIXING AND MANIPULATION
By: Janvhi Rastogi* |
Around the first week of July, Ravinder Dandiwal made the headlines for his involvement in match-fixing and betting. He was alleged of hosting a fake Uva Sri Lanka T20 League that was claimed to be held in Sri Lanka but was actually played near Mohali, Chandigarh. The Punjab Police officials have arrested Dandiwal along with two other bookies. The Police are also investigating the social media app-FanCode as the fake match was live-streamed on this app. Earlier the Victoria police in Australia named Dandiwal as the ‘central figure’ in the match-fixing syndicate for the sporting events that had taken place in 2018 in Egypt and Brazil. Sports law in India is highly inadequate and undeveloped. Probably, this case will compel the Indian lawmakers to make a distinct law for match manipulation, fixing and betting.
Well, this is not the only instance. The 19th and 20th century saw an exceptional increase in shady activities like the Black Sox Scandal of 1919; in 2004-06, Italian football clubs were accused of getting a biased referee for favourable results; further, in the Olympic Games of 2012, eight players were disqualified for tanking in badminton women’s double.
Sports are very popular among Indians, specifically cricket which has led to the commercialization of the sport. Consequently, leading to rampant corruption and manipulation of the results. The people engaging in corrupt activities forget that the essence of any sport lies in fair competition and the skills of the players. Through this article, I would like to discuss how the various legislations in India are unfit to handle the menace of match manipulation and corruption.
MATCH MANIPULATION- THE CONCEPT
In colloquial terms, Match Manipulation refers to influencing of players and other related participants to engage in activities like fixing, betting or strategies to get a required outcome or to ease their competition in the future matches in a particular league. However, the primary reason for their involvement is the monetary benefits.
There are certain inter-woven constituents which give birth to the manipulation in sports. Any player or stakeholder who undertakes the activity is aware of the consequences of getting caught. Then, what drives them to go for it? It is the motivation to gain illegitimate financial and strategic benefits. The former captain of South Africa Men’s Cricket team, Hansie Cronje quoted in his confession for match-fixing that the temptation of the money went far beyond the passion he had for his game and the country. One of the chief constituents to determine the liability of the person is the intention. The intention of a person tells us about the mental state to carry out a particular task. It will give us the insight as to whether an individual adopted a specific strategy with a positive intention i.e. within the protocols of that sport or to get flawed results. Knowledge of the party is another important constituent. If a person unknowingly shares some internal information; he cannot be totally eliminated as a perpetrator, but the severity of sanctions would be less. After all, sports require a high level of discipline and integrity. Finally, the Actions of all the participants- players, referees, pitch curator, team managers, doctors etc is the ultimate determinant. It is important to note that the knowledge, intent and the actions of the person should be determined clearly, for only then they can be classified as a perpetrator to avoid any miscarriage of justice to any individual.
THE UNDEFINED CONCEPT IN INDIA
It is quite astonishing that malfeasance in sports dates back to as early as 267AD, in which a Greek contract was signed to fix a wrestling match. Yet, we do not have adequate laws to deal with it. Some countries do have laws for it, but they need to be broader and more comprehensive. In India, terms like “Manipulation of sports result”, “match-fixing” do not have any extensive definition or laws regulating the same. India has witnessed two major match-fixing and betting scandals namely the 2000 Match-Fixing Scandal and the 2013 Spot-fixing incident and the accused people were sparsely punished under the Anti-Corruption Codes. The only definition regarding the fixing was provided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its report on the 2000 Scandal. There is a gross lacuna in the Indian legal framework because no legislative enactment truly satisfies its application for sports-related manipulations. The following are some of the legal provisions dealing with various types of such manipulations:
The most common provision that is invoked in the above case is Cheating defined under Section 415 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 coupled with Criminal Conspiracy under 120-A and punishment of it under 120-B of IPC. However, this provision cannot be established as the offence of cheating is directed against a particular person and not the general world. On further analysis, it is found that section requires ‘dishonest concealment of fact’; Dishonestly defined under Section 24 of IPC requires wrongful gain or wrongful loss to a person. Here, taking money from the bookmaker did not cause any wrongful loss to people. Further, the section requires a transfer of property from the accused. However, in case of fixing, there is nothing as such. Since match-fixing is not defined as an offence under Section 415, it is not illegal. Hence, the provision of Criminal Conspiracy is totally negated.
The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 can also not be initiated as the major ingredient- 'to be a public servant’ as stated under Section 2(c) is not fulfilled in most of the cases. The Court in Zee Telefilms Ltd v. Union of India & Ors held that due to the autonomous nature of BCCI, it is not a state under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution and therefore players cannot be regarded as public servants. Although CBI, in regard of 2000 Match-fixing Scandal, suggested that Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma, being the employees of SBI and Central Warehousing Corporation respectively come under the ambit of ‘public servant’; however, there is no violation on their part as a public servant. Hence, this act could not be invoked against these players in the scandal.
The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is not applicable to ‘a game of skill’. Though the Act does not define ‘game of skill’, but the apex court’s decision in Dr K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu And Anr stated that in games where success majorly depends on skill, even though when there is a scope of illegal activities like gambling or betting, it will be considered as a game of skill. Sports like Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Horse Racing, Rummy are all considered to be ‘a game of skill’. Hence, this act could be of little help in case of betting and manipulation.
Another provision which was applied for Match Manipulation but failed was the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999. This Act was instituted against the players of Rajasthan Royals, mainly S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan in the Spot-fixing incident in IPL 2013. The Act requires that the accused person should be involved in an ‘organised crime syndicate’ and should continuously carry out illegal activities (primarily cognisable offences). However, due to the absence of enough evidence, the act could not be employed in that case.
The Sports Governing Bodies (SGBs) and their anti-corruption codes like BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit have limited power in cases involving match manipulation mainly due to lack of jurisdiction, and as a result, seriously affecting their ability of fact-finding and gathering the evidence. The BCCI can summon and examine only those people who are under their control i.e. officials and employees of BCCI, past and present players. Hence, the body could not examine the bookies or any other external person involved. Due to the lack of their investigative power, a full-fledged inquiry can never be imputed. However, there is no way we can ignore the fact that these bodies are not free from corruption as they are governed by powerful people. From long, the Government of India has been trying to bring BCCI under their radar i.e. Right to Information Act, 2005 but has been facing constant opposition as it would lead to higher transparency due to constant supervision.
Various bills were drafted so that relevant legislations can be formed. The first one was drafted in 2013 by the name- The Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill. It was a very comprehensive bill providing definitions to all the relevant terms like insider information, sporting events, supporting personnel etc. However, it was never introduced in either of the houses. In 2016, a fresh attempt was made in the form of National Sports Ethics Commission Bill. It proposed to form an Ethics Committee to monitor the activities. Further, it intended to form a tribunal in the form of National Commission which will adjudicate the violations in the sports specifically. Although the bill was introduced in the lower house, yet it was never debated upon. One more attempt was made in the form of The Sports (Online Gambling and Prevention of Fraud) Bill in 2018. This bill widened the jurisdiction by including international sporting activities within the purview of ‘Sports Fraud’. This bill also remains pending in the Parliament. Not only this, various Commissions and Committees were also formed to look into match manipulation and corruption, giving suggestions in the form of reports; one of the major suggestions was to punish match-fixing and regulate betting.
LESSONS FROM THE WORLD
Not all the countries in the world have laws regulating corruption and manipulation in sports. Nevertheless, there are a few countries which could provide a model for framing the laws of our country. The biggest inspiration is the neighbouring country- Sri Lanka, which is the first among all the South Asian countries to have distinct laws which were introduced in November 2019. One of the finest parts of the Act is having the provision for the appointment of an autonomous body called Special Investigation Unit to carry out the investigation, gather evidence, search premises and even seize devices. In South Africa, The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004 provides legislations in respect of corrupt activities including even those activities which could affect the integrity of the sports. Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia also have discrete laws for unlawful activities. Federations like FIFA, ICC also have enacted regulations to ease their investigations like FIFA- built Confidential Reporting Mechanism- an application where any person can report these activities without disclosing their identity. The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) of ICC undertook an interesting investigatory step regarding the corrupt activities in Sri Lanka: 15 day Amnesty programme where a participant could report acts with an assurance that those people who will come forward won’t be penalised under breach of the reporting obligation.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Billie Jean King, a former American World No. 1 Tennis player once said, “Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose-it teaches you about life.” Sports grant a kind of worthiness to a person. But due to these illegitimate activities, the integrity of sports is being questioned. There is a dire need for legislation. The bills which were proposed in the Parliament regarding the Sports Fraud should be critically viewed and analysed and appropriate laws should be made. The Sporting Bodies should formulate strict regulations and breach of any should result in firm actions. Along with that, it is of paramount importance that the players should have a dedication for their sport and their country. From the very beginning, during their training, the young individuals should be educated about the unscrupulous activities in sports and the possible repercussions. In this way, we can make them mentally strong to tackle such situations and take the correct decisions.
Thus, the challenges are many but if the players and the authorities will work in conjunction, there is a scope to preserve the sobriety of the game.
* The author is a student at the Faculty of Law, Jamia Milia Islamia.