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Cricket Match Fixing Does Not Amount To Offence Of Cheating Under Section 420 IPC: Karnataka High Court Quashes FIR Against KPL Players

Mustafa Plumber
21 Jan 2022 7:51 AM GMT
Cricket Match Fixing Does Not Amount To Offence Of Cheating Under Section 420 IPC: Karnataka High Court Quashes FIR Against KPL Players
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The Karnataka High Court has said that cricket match fixing does not amount to the offence of cheating and therefore the offence under Section 420 IPC cannot be invoked against the alleged offenders. A single judge bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar said, "It is true that if a player indulges in match fixing, a general feeling will arise that he has cheated the lovers of the game....

The Karnataka High Court has said that cricket match fixing does not amount to the offence of cheating and therefore the offence under Section 420 IPC cannot be invoked against the alleged offenders.

A single judge bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar said, "It is true that if a player indulges in match fixing, a general feeling will arise that he has cheated the lovers of the game. But, this general feeling does not give rise to an offence".

The bench while allowing the petitions filed by accused Abrar Kazi and others who were chargesheeted under section 420 and section 120 (b) of the India Penal Code, for allegedly fixing the Karnataka Premier League matches in the year 2019.

Petitioner Arguments:

Senior Advocates Hashmath Pasha, A S Ponnanna and Advocates Amar Correa and Akshay Prabhu, Leela P Devadiga, Arnav Bagalwadi & Prateek Chandramouli, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that match-fixing is not an offence, nor has it been defined to be an offence in any law. And an offence under section 420 of IPC cannot be imputed against the petitioners for, the essential ingredients for the said offence to constitute are not forthcoming in the charge sheet.

Further it was said "Even if it is assumed for argument sake that the petitioners did involve in match fixing, it will not constitute an offence and at best it is breach of the Code of Conduct prescribed to the players by the BCCI. Action may be taken by the BCCI and in this case the Cricket Board has not taken any action against some of the petitioners who are players. In this view, the chargesheet for the offence under section 420 IPC is not sustainable and for the same reason the offence of conspiracy punishable under section 120B is also not sustainable."

It was also submitted that a statement made by an accused cannot be used against a co-accused or even against one who made it if the statement is inculpatory in nature. Since registration of FIR is based on confession statements of an accused, FIR is bad in law and consequently the charge sheet is also bad.

Prosecution Submissions:

Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa submitted, "Anti-Corruption Code prescribed by BCCI is not a bar for initiating criminal proceedings and that in the case on hand, all the essential ingredients for the offence under section 420 IPC are present".

Further he said, "People buy tickets to watch a match. They carry an impression in their mind that they are going to watch a fair play which will yield a just result. If match fixing takes place, the result is predetermined and there is no fair game. Thus people are cheated."

He added "The property involved in a case of this type to invoke the offence under section 420 IPC is the money that the people pay for buying tickets. They are induced to buy tickets for the fair play assured and in case there is match fixing, certainly an element of deception can be made out and thus section 420 is attracted".

As regards invoking the charge under section 120B, it was submitted that "It is an independent offence, there are materials in the charge sheet indicating conspiracy among the accused for fixing the game."

Court findings:

Firstly the court dealt with the contention of registration of FIR based on the information received by the police, while interrogating another case. It observed, "There is substance in the argument that the confession statement of an accused given before the police cannot be referred to in view of the bar contained in section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act"

It added, "But, the said bar is to the extent of proving the confession against the accused who made it, there is no prohibition as such to make use of any information that a police officer comes to know for the first time regarding a crime which might have taken place in the past and not detected till then, while interrogating an accused in connection with another case of crime."

Then the court noted, "In fact many incidents of theft, robbery or dacoity come to light only during such interrogations. It may be stated further that such statement can be made use of only for the limited purpose of registration of FIR and it cannot be used for proving it against an accused."

The court opined, "Registration of FIR is not the end in itself and it is not a substantive piece of evidence also. Mere registration of FIR in this manner does not lead to convicting an accused, investigator has to collect independent evidence and further the prosecution must be able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt."

The court then junked the arguments made by the prosecution regarding section 420 of IPC. It said, "For invoking offence under section 420 IPC, the essential ingredients to be present are deception, dishonest inducement of a person to deliver any property or to alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security."

It added, "Of course money is property, but the argument that they (viewers) are induced to buy tickets cannot be accepted. They may have a feeling that they are going to witness a fair game being played, but they buy the tickets voluntarily. So, the question of inducement to buy a ticket can be ruled out".

The court then held, "Match fixing may indicate dishonesty, indiscipline and mental corruption of a player and for this purpose the BCCI is the authority to initiate disciplinary action. If the bye-laws of the BCCI provide for initiation of disciplinary action against a player, such an action is permitted but registration of an FIR on the ground that a crime punishable under section 420 IPC has been committed, is not permitted. Even if the entire charge sheet averments are taken to be true on their face value, they do not constitute an offence."

The court also observed that "If section 2(7) of Karnataka Police Act is seen, its explanation very clearly says that game of chance does not include any athletic game or sport. Cricket is a sport and therefore even if betting takes place, it cannot be brought within the ambit of definition of 'gaming' found in Karnataka Police Act".

Finally the court said "To invoke this offence of conspiracy, the allegations found in the charge sheet must constitute an offence in connection with which conspiracy is alleged. The allegations found in the charge sheet do not constitute an offence under section 420 IPC and therefore offence under section 120B cannot be invoked in the facts and circumstances".

Accordingly it allowed the petitions and quashed the proceedings pending against the accused before the Metropolitan Court.

Case Title: Abrar Kazi v. State of Karnataka

Case No: Crl.P.No.2929/2020

Date of Order: January 10, 2022

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 21

Appearance: Senior Advocates Hashmath Pasha, A S Ponnanna and Advocates Amar Correa and Akshay Prabhu for petitioners; Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa a/w Advocate B J Rohith for respondents

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