This article is written by Dhruv Vatsyayan of Law School, Banaras Hindu University who is pursuing his 1st year of B.A.LL.B and is a sports enthusiast by passion. In this article, he deals with the Match Fixing and Betting Laws in India.
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In November 2019, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the Prevention of Offences related to Sports bill, which had a strong backing of Arjun Ranatunga, former World Cup-winning captain and currently a minister in the government.
This brought light to the fact that India, which is the global hub for the sport, doesn’t have stringent legislation to punish match-fixing and corruption in sport especially in cricket.
According to a report by FICCI, the illegal sports betting industry in India holds for more than 3,00,000 crores market, which is almost 90% of the worldwide market share.
While there are various recommendations laid out by various reports regarding match-fixing and betting laws, there are loopholes and voids which exist due to the absence of any kind of legislation for the same. This void continues to haunt sports enthusiasts and administrators.
So, let’s discuss the legality and legal consequences of match-fixing and betting in India.
What is Betting and Match-Fixing?
Betting and match-fixing are two terms that we come across very frequently but we often confuse by using them synonymously.
Betting is essentially a form of gambling and sports betting is done on the outcome of sporting events. Such bets do possess only two possible outcomes, either you win the bet or you lose it.
While match-fixing means pre-determining the result of a game through corrupt means by violating the rules of the game and often the law of the land.
Now, one must wonder, what is the relation between these two terms?
So, it must be understood this way, that when a bettor bets for a game, he does it for gaining profit by winning it. Some bettors, in order to win the bet, do get into contact with the players and officials. They either try to convince the player to underperform or they extract some pieces of information from the officials in order to make a bet on the safe side.
Convincing is done by offering a hefty amount of money to the players or the officials. The person who offers the money to underperform is known as a bookie or a bookmaker.
Nowhere in Indian laws, betting or match-fixing is defined. However, Section (d) of Part 1 of the CBI Report on the match-fixing classifies following acts under the ambit of match-fixing:
- Such instances, where a player or a group of players get monetary offerings to underperform in a game.
- Such instances, where a player himself/herself bets in such a way that would naturally make them underperform than their abilities.
- Such instances, when a player gives certain information, like team composition, team formation, pitch conditions, etc to a booker or any booker syndicate that would affect the result of a game.
- Such instances, where the curators and groundsmen are bribed to prepare the pitch in a way which suits the bettors.
- Such instances, where current or former players are contacted by the bookies and they try to influence other players to get involved in fixing.
However, there may be various different reasons too. For example, suppose there is a tennis player H.Dekisugi from China. He is participating in a multilateral series. But, from next month, he has to participate in a world super series, which is way more important than this ongoing series. He intentionally plays loosely to be eliminated in the early rounds, so that he may train properly for the world super series.
This particular instance can also be treated as match-fixing as the player underperformed intentionally.
Thus, any such instance, where a particular player underperforms intentionally, should be treated as a case of match-fixing.
Current legal framework for dealing with Match-Fixing
The Law Commission, in its report in the year 2018 advocated for criminalizing of sports fraud and match-fixing.
Chairman of the commission, Justice B.S.Chauhan, also hinted that this would be dealt with severe punishments and may include jail terms also. The need for such stricter laws has always been felt, and especially since the Azharuddin match-fixing scandal came to light.
The year 2001 was a year of turmoil in the Indian Cricket which changed the sport in India forever. By fall of April 2001, the news of Indian skipper, Mohammad Azharuddin being involved in match-fixing, spread across the cricketing fraternity and sensationalized the cricketing world.
The Hyderabad stalwart, along with Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, and Nikhil Chopra was accused by the South African skipper, Hansie Cronje for having contacts with bookies and bettors.
Lastly, by the fall of November 2001, it was pretty much established that Azhar was involved with bookmakers and was sentenced to a life ban by the BCCI.
During this fiasco, the CBI was entrusted with preparing a report on match-Fixing in which CBI defined match-fixing, but the definition was restricted only to the players and not the supporting staff.
However, to deal with such cases of match-fixing there is no such specific legislation or any section in IPC which deals with such cases.
In most cases, such situations are dealt with under Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code which is about cheating. It is dealt in this way because the players are supposed to be responsible towards the public and a large mass of fans as they share a relationship of trust. When a player involved in match-fixing and intentionally underplays, the breach of trust happens. Thus, they can be charged under this section, but the problem arises during proving the offense and collecting the evidence.
Normally, the standard of proof is much higher in criminal cases, which cannot be achieved in the cases of match-fixing. Thus, it becomes difficult to deal with the match-fixing cases under this section.
Thus, there are no such specific laws in India regarding match-fixing which restricts the authorities to take stringent actions against the offenders.
Need For Legalizing Sports Betting
In India, the legal status of betting is not yet dealt with by the judicial courts. To legalize it, the courts must first determine whether it is a game of skill or game of chance. However, when asked by the Supreme Court of India, the Law Commission, in the year 2018 recommended that sports betting should be legalized.
According to the report of the law commission, betting should be legalized so that this underground industry can be regularised and could be kept an eye upon.
By regularising this industry, the menace of match-fixing could be stopped and restricted. Let us see how.
Once the regulations regarding this industry are laid down, it would be easy to identify the legal and illegal bettors and betting agencies. It would help to recognize match-fixers and bookies because most probably, it will be the illegal bettors who would be involved in match-fixing. Thus, in this way, a concrete framework would be functioning and would help to identify people and agencies involved in match-fixing.
Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, 2013
Several attempts were made by the government to tackle these issues of match-fixing and sporting fraud previously. But, the most remarkable attempt till now came in the year 2013.
In the year 2013, the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill was introduced in the Parliament.
It was drafted with the goal of preventing and combating sports fraud, which affects the integrity of sports and fair play in relation to national and international sporting events and matters connected with them.
This draft bill defines the act of sporting fraud in the following way:
- If a person tries to influence the result of the game for monetary gain, irrelevant of the fact whether the result actually is affected or not;
- If a person tries to alter the playing arrangements or intentionally misapplies the rules of the sport for monetary gain;
- If a person intentionally underplays his true potential for monetary or any other benefits unless such performance is in the interest of the team;
- If a person discloses any such information to any other person which is likely to affect the result of the match;
- If a person omits to perform the duty of informing of any such activities in his/her knowledge.
This draft bill proposed for stringent punishments and imprisonments. It suggested with maximum imprisonment term for 5 years and with a fine of five times the economic benefit derived from the act or 10 lakhs, whichever is greater.
Even any attempt made to commit the offense is punishable with the same punishments as for committing the offense.
The salient feature of this bill is that this bill includes not only players but also the coaches, supporting staff, managers, and administrators.
Now let’s see, what authorities can take cognizance of the offenses defined under this bill.
No court other than following can take cognizance of such cases:
- Appropriate sporting/disciplinary authorities;
- A person assigned by the National Sporting Federation to look after such anti-corruption cases;
- Any person with an intention to make a complaint to the court and having notified about the same to the concerned sporting authority 60 days prior to complaining;
- Courts superior to the judicial magistrate of the first class.
However, due to legislative ignorance of the issue concerned, the bill is yet to be tabled in the parliament, even 7 years after the preparation of the draft.
And throughout these years, the need has been felt along, be it during IPL spot-fixing episode or other cases.
Now, let’s discuss these cases and their implications on the sport and law per se.
IPL Spot-Fixing Fiasco
The biggest franchise-based cricket league in the world, the Indian Premier League went into the news for bad reasons in the year 2013. A handful of players and several other team officials were accused of being involved in match-fixing.
On the night of 15th May 2013, three players, S.Sreesanth, A.Chavan and A.Chandila were arrested by a special cell of the Delhi Police on the apprehension of being in contact with bookies. All these players represented Rajasthan Royals in the current version of the league. For probing this case, BCCI constituted a committee to inquire into the same and submit a report within 30 days. Later on, when the report was submitted, all these players were found guilty and thus were recommended to the Disciplinary Committee of BCCI for taking actions against them.
On the other hand, the crime branch of the Mumbai Police arrested some bookies and the links were revealed of involvement of Gurunath Meiyappan, CEO of franchise Chennai Super Kings and Raj Kundra, business tycoon, and owner of Rajasthan Royals.
Later on, all the involvements were proved to be true and as a consequence, both the franchise, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were suspended for the next two years, in the year 2015 when the probe concluded.
During this case, Justice Mukul Mudgal committee was formed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. This committee in its report dealt with the underworld connections of match-fixing and bookies.
The probe committee also came up with several recommendations with respect to restrictions on players.
This included restriction of access to the players, disclosure of information by the players, supervision, training, and education of the players as well as of the support staff.
Another more high powered committee, RM Lodha committee was also formed. In its report, Lodha Committee recommended a number of directives including that there should be no conflict of interest in the board and the working would be carried on by a committee of administrators.
These steps sent a strong message to all the players, staff, bookies and others to refrain from indulging in match-fixing. However, the void created in the absence of strong legislation still exists and needs to be tackled soon.
Challenges in dealing with Match-Fixing
Lack of a concrete law dealing with match-fixing and other sports fraud is still the biggest challenge that lies ahead. The task would become much easier if the draft of the Prevention of Sports Fraud Bill 2013 was passed in the parliament. A strong mechanism to punish the people involved in sports fraud is the need of the hour.
The other thing that needs to be followed necessarily is the adoption of the Code of Conduct and ethics by all the sporting associations and federations of the country.
Every federation and association should provide strict punishments and sanctions to their respective members if found involved in any kind of sports fraud.
Taking inspiration from NADA, a dedicated national body dealing with such acts should be formed and a separate wing within police should also be created to investigate such cases.
Again, legalizing the business of betting would prove to be helpful in curbing such cases as the bookies could be easily identified and thus can be stopped from contacting players and other officials.
The menace of match-fixing and illegal betting is a phenomenon that has been haunting Indian sports fans and administrators for a considerable time now. Money laundering and other forms of financial crimes are affecting the sports at different levels.
The players and officials involved should be made aware and should be taught about the repercussions of such involvement. Without moral awareness of players and until concrete legislation into play, this problem can’t be curbed.
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