Match fixing will not amount to offence of cheating under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Karnataka High Court recently ruled [CM Gautam v. State of Karnataka]
Single-judge Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar said that while 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, that does not give rise to an offence under IPC.
“For invoking the offence under Section 420 of 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 was argued that cricket buyers go to watch the match by buying tickets and thereby they are induced to part with their property. Of course money is property but they buy tickets voluntarily. So question of inducement to buy ticket can be ruled out,” the Court held.
Match fixing, the Court said may indicate dishonesty, indiscipline and mental corruption of a player.
However, only the BCCI can initiate disciplinary action under their by-laws for match fixing, and an FIR under Section 420 of the IPC cannot be registered, the Court made it clear.
The order was passed on a batch of petitions filed by certain players of Karnataka Premier League (KPL) seeking quashing of criminal cases filed against them for offences under Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and Section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of IPC.
In November 2019, the City Crime Branch of Bengaluru had found out about alleged match fixing of the KPL cricket matches, which were held between August 15 and 31, 2019. A criminal case was initiated and chargesheet was filed against the petitioners.
It stated there was a conspiracy between the owner of the Belagavi Panthers team, some of the cricketers and bookies. The cricketers received money for conceding runs, playing slowly, and intentionally losing matches.
The petitioners argued before the High Court that match fixing is not an offence under IPC, and has not been defined as an offence under any law. Even if they were involved in match fixing, it would at most be a breach of the Code of Conduct of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), so only the BCCI has the authority to take action against the players, it was argued.
Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa, appearing for the State, urged that the Anti-Corruption code of the BCCI does not bar any criminal proceedings, and that the actions of the petitioners form an offence under Section 420 of the IPC.
People buy tickets to watch a match, believing that they are going to witness a fair game with just results. When there is a predetermined result of the game due to match-fixing, the viewers of the game are cheated, he submitted.
The property which they are induced to deliver dishonestly is the money they pay to buy the tickets, Chinnappa He also argued that Section 120-B, (criminal conspiracy) is an independent offence, for which the petitioners can be tried with even if Section 420 is held to be not applicable.
The Court, however, held that the essential ingredients of the offence of cheating are not satisfied in case of match fixing.
He did not accept the contention that viewers of the game are induced to part with their money by buying tickets.
“They may have a feeling that they are going to witness a fair game being played, but, they buy the tickets voluntarily. 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 Court said.
Even if the entire charge sheet averments are taken to be true on their face value, they do not constitute an offence, the Court made it clear.
The Karnataka Police Act was also invoked against the bookie-petitioner with the claim that betting amounts to gaming, which is an offence under Section 2(7) [wagering or betting in connection with any game of chance] of the Act.
The Court, however, held that the Karnataka Police Act cannot apply, since the explanation to Section 2(7) clearly states that a game of chance does not include any athletic game or sport.
Even if betting takes place in cricket, it is an athletic game and cannot be brought under the definition of “gaming” under the Act, the judge said.
The Court also did not accept the contention of the State that section 120B is an independent offence of conspiracy, nothing that if the allegations against them do not form an offence under Section 420, a charge of criminal conspiracy cannot be made out against the petitioners.
All the proceedings against the petitioners were thus quashed.
Senior Advocates Hashmath Pasha and AS Ponnana and advocates Amar Correa and Akshay Prabhu appeared on behalf of the petitioners while Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinappa and Advocate BJ Rohith represented the respondents.
Read Order here: