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MATCH FIXING LAWS IN INDIA: A NEED TO FIX

Updated: Apr 6



This post has been authored by Karthik Subramaniam and Saurabh Sharma.


  • Karthik Subramaniam is a second-year undergraduate student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. His main areas of interest lie in the field of Alternate Dispute Redressal, including mediation and negotiation. He also dabbles in areas of Sports Law and International Humanitarian Law.

  • Saurabh Sharma is a second-year undergraduate student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. He’s extremely interested in the area of Sports Law.


INTRODUCTION


In the sporting arena, match-fixing refers to the manipulation of the outcome or result of a specific game, thereby removing the element of uncertainty associated with a sport. Similarly, spot-fixing refers to the manipulation of a specific phase of a game without aiming at altering the outcome or the result of the game by itself. Both these activities are conducted with the objective of illegally providing gains to gambling dens by favouring a specific outcome preferred by them. The Indian sporting arena, especially the cricketing fraternity, has come under intense scrutiny for its links with illegal bookmakers. In November 2019, a few well-known cricketers from the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) were arrested for allegedly having links with illegal bookmakers and taking money to fix the outcome of a few matches. While such incidents are in no ways a new occurrence in the sport, it has, however, become more prolific due to the development of technology and the Internet.


THE NEED FOR CRIMINALIZATION


Sport has always been something that society has held in high regard. The element of fair competition and sportsmanship are a few values that any sport embodies, and match-fixing throws blight on this exact image of a sport. Further insight into the world of match-fixing shows links to corruption, money laundering and organized crime. The need for the criminalization of match-fixing arises to protect and safeguard any sports’ integrity and maintain the special status that sport holds in society, apart from ensuring that the money earned illegally through the same doesn’t end up in unsavoury areas. In a country where a sport such as cricket is well respected, while also raking in truckloads of money for everyone involved, stringent measures for match-fixers who can cause harm to the same does not exist, or even if it does, is very lax.


SAFEGUARDS PRESENT GLOBALLY


On 18th November 2019, Sri Lanka became the first South Asian country to criminalize several offences related to match-fixing by passing an Act titled – “Prevention of Offences Relating to Sports”, in which offences carry punishments ranging from a prison sentence of 10 years to various fines. The Act not only looks at punishing “any person related to a sport” but also looks at punishing individuals providing inside information and officials deliberately misapplying rules.


Countries across the world such as Australia and South Africa have laws criminalizing match-fixing, thereby dis-incentivizing individuals from fixing the game. The Prevention and Combating Act 12 of 2004, (“PCA”) which was enacted in South Africa considers individuals guilty of corruption not only if they engage in a match-fixing scenario in, but also if they fail to report the occurrence of any such activity to the relevant authorities as mandated by the Act. Australia, on the other hand, set out a National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport in 2011 which was endorsed by the sports ministers of all the Australian states and territories. The policy, which aimed at protecting the integrity of sport, looked at setting up “integrity agreements” between Sports Controlling Bodies and betting agencies while also setting up certain integrity benchmarks to be followed. The setting up of legislation to criminalize match-fixing in each state with prison sentences was another criterion that was agreed upon, which was then appropriately followed up by a few of the states.


The Asian subcontinent, however, especially India, despite being billed as one of the largest markets in this industry has been slow in passing regulations against match-fixing.


ABSENCE OF A LEGAL FRAMEWORK


There isn’t single legislation in India that pertains to the issue of match-fixing and spot-fixing. This lack of an overarching legal framework gives a lot of leeway to the governing sports bodies to deal with these issues and the way it is done has been found to be wanting at most times. There have been several instances of players being left scot-free due to the lack of stringent measures in place. Due to this massive procedural deficiency, sport boards also tend to overlook these indiscretions and more often than not, cover up such issues by resorting to an oft-employed tactic of an internal investigation. These internal investigations are very antithetical to the idea of natural justice as the Board embroiled in the fiasco itself is involved in the process of fact-finding and sanctioning. Considering that cricketers are often bestowed with the status of demi-gods, these internal investigations become an absolute farce and the credibility and veracity of the decision are heavily compromised.


This lack of a framework isn’t only limited to the internal functioning of the Boards, it heavily influences the decisions by the court as well when these matters are taken up. Since there is limited to no regulation available, courts very often have to resort to other penal measures prescribed under the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) and Anti-Corruption laws. Section 415 and 420 of the IPC are the most used provision when it comes to the matters of fixing. The sections read in conjunction have two main components; causing dishonest gain to oneself and wrongful loss to others. Intention forms the backbone of any criminal act is an established legal principle. As seen in the case of Ahmed v. The State of Rajasthan, an act becomes dishonest only when it has the element of intention present in it. In cases of fixing, the question that is often asked: “Who is suffering a loss as a result of the act of players?” An immediate and obvious answer would be the spectators of the sport. But players never have the intention of causing loss to the spectators in the first place. It is more of a consequence rather than a constituent element of the act. In addition to this, cricketers cannot be considered as serving “public duty” which is a pre-requisite for someone to be even tried in the case under The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (“PCAC”). Section 2(B) (ii) of the said Act defines Public Duty as “a duty in the discharge of which the State, the public or community at large has an interest”.


In the case of Zee Telefilms v. The Union of India, it has been settled that Board of Control for Cricket in India (“BCCI” or “Board”) does not come under the purview of state and its instrumentalities as stated in Article 12 of the constitution of India. BCCI is a charitable organization established under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act (“TNSRA”), hence it cannot be considered a sports federation as well. Since BCCI is neither a limb of the state nor is it a national sporting federation, the cricket players essentially represent the Board and not the country. The players have a contractual obligation towards the Board and not towards the state. In the light of arguments presented above, cricket players cannot be considered to be serving “public duty” and hence are not liable to be tried under PCAC.


The application of these laws would necessarily entail a myopic understanding of the issue at hand as these laws were not designed for the purpose. Since these statutes don’t pertain to the matters of fixing, players can always cite improper application of the law and get away despite there being sufficient evidence present for them to be convicted had there been a fixing specific law in the place.


THE WAY FORWARD


There is an immediate need for separate anti-fixing legislation in place which hits at the core of the issue. Enactment of such a law would ensure that the authorities don’t have to resort to other penal statutes. Such a statute would also provide for a procedural framework to ensure that athletes do not cite procedural deficiencies and get away with any sort of violation.


It becomes imperative at this point to understand the motive of those involved in fixing incidents. It has been seen that there exists a very strong link between the acts of gambling and betting with fixing. Very often it is found that a fixing event was preceded by an act of gambling. The fear of losing a huge sum of money acts as a catalyst to get involved in fixing to influence the game, so as to manipulate a certain part, or the result of the entire game according to one’s interests. To ensure a positive return on the amount one is betting for, bookies get players to perform in a certain favourable manner.


Thus, any legislation brought in this regard has to be coupled with regulations on betting as well. To do this we need to move towards a regime where betting is legal and controlled, one of the few suggestions that were advanced by the Justice Chauhan led Law Commission report titled, “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting Including in Cricket in India”. This would have two advantages: increased revenue collection for the State, and a sense of security for the people who are involved in the process of betting. While changes in the legal system are definitely necessary to curb fixing activities, the problem must also be dealt at its grassroots level. Players in the nascent stages of their career should be made aware of the perils of being involved in such acts. This can be done by having a proper orientation programme for the players right from the grassroots level.


In a country like India where cricket is considered to be a religion, and the spectators worship players, there needs to be some sort of a law that maintains the sanctity of the same.


The authors can be reached for comments on their email at karthik.subramaniam.nalsar@gmail.com


Cite as: Karthik S. & Saurabh S., Match Fixing Laws in India: A Need to Fix, Extra-Cover, The Sports Law Blog of India (3rd Mar 2020), Accessed at https://www.extra cover.org/post/match-fixing-laws-in-india-a-need-to-fix [Date of Access].


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