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MATCH-FIXING AND BETTING IN SPORTS: THE ISSUE

INTRODUCTION

Recently Indian cricketer Mohammed Siraj filed a complaint of corrupt practice to the BCCI.[1] Corruption is nowadays an inseparable part of politics, services, and other fields but now it is spreading its base slowly into the field of sports. There have been many instances of match-fixing which led to players and even teams getting banned. There is betting going on everywhere in sports. Even today news apps are coming where people play online or make their team online. So, are these apps illegal?

WHAT IS BETTING AND MATCH-FIXING?

Betting and Match-Fixing are the two terms we have often heard if we are sports enthusiasts. These two terms are mostly misunderstood to be the same thing but they are not. Betting is when a person, who is called the bettor, bets on a team or player to play well or not but is not sure of the outcome. The outcome in betting is just two either he wins or loses. On the other hand, in match-fixing the outcome of something is changed. In this, a player is paid to underperform so that the outcome of the game changes.

Surprisingly, betting and match-fixing are nowhere defined in Indian laws. We can define as:

  • Instances where a player or group of players receive money to underperform.
  • Instances, where a player plays bets in his match which leads, undermine his natural games.
  • Instances where players give important information like team composition, probable outcome, pitch conditions, etc. to a betting syndicate.
  • Instances, where groundsmen take money to prepare the pitch in a certain way, would help one side.
  • Instances of current and ex-players used by bookies to gain access to Indian and foreign players to influence their performance for monetary consideration.

However, there are some issues with this definition of match-fixing. It just talks about players and does not include coaches, selectors, etc. Well, it can be that they are considered under-players but as per the normal definition of players, one who plays on the ground does not include them. Also, it does not include if a person bets on himself to play better with good intentions.

Match-fixing should be defined as an act where a player, teams, coaches, other members, etc. try to get an unfair advantage by relieving some information that should not go out or underperforming.

CURRENT LEGAL FRAMEWORK DEALING WITH MATCH-FIXING

There are no special laws dealing with match-fixing but a need for these laws has been felt. The law commission in 2018 forwarded the agenda of criminalizing fraud in sports and match-fixing. The Commission’s chairman, Justice B.S. Chauhan, also said that this would be dealt with severe punishments and even jail terms. The need for such stricter laws has always been felt.[2]

Currently match-fixing is not illegal under any Indian law as also ruled by the Karnataka High Court.[3] Most such cases are dealt with by Section 415 of the Indian Penal Code[4] which talks about cheating in a way that there is a relationship of trust between the cricket players and the spectators and by underperforming they are doing a breach of trust with them.

Section 415 of IPC states that “Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he would not do or omit if he were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to “cheat”.”[5]

PAST INSTANCES OF MATCH-FIXING

The 2001 Azharuddin case- In the year 2001 there was a huge shock to Indian cricket which changed its course forever. In April 2021, Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin was alleged of match-fixing. The news spread across the cricketing world. After probing into the matter, the allegation was found to be true and Azharuddin was banned for a lifetime by BCCI.[6]

The IPL fixing fiasco – The biggest cricket league, Indian Premier League, was in the news for match-fixing in 2013. In 2013, some players were arrested by police on the belief of being in contact with bookies for match-fixing. They all represented Rajasthan Royals in that season. For probing this case, BCCI made a committee to look into this matter and submit its report within 30 days. In the report, all of them were found guilty and were held to the disciplinary committee of BCCI for further action.  Also, the crime branch of Mumbai Police arrested some bookies and found their connection with the CEO of the franchise Chennai Super Kings and the owner of Rajasthan Royals. As a result, both franchises were banned for 2 years from the IPL.[7]

THE CURRENT LEGAL STATUS OF THE BETTING

Betting is illegal in India, but as stated above there are no specific laws to deal with it. The Public Gambling Act (1867) mentions that all kinds of gambling in India are illegal.[8] Under the constitution of India, the exclusive powers to make laws regarding gambling rests with the states under Entry 34 of List II of the 7th schedule of the constitution.[9Betting has been widely divided into a game of skill and a game of chance where a game of skill is allowed but a game of chance is illegal in India. An example of the game of skill is the fantasy sports apps which are considered to be illegal by some. But it has been ruled by courts that it comes under the game of skill as a person uses his skills and knowledge to decide which player to pick to create his team.[10]

CONCLUSION

As we can see that corruption in sports and gambling are so widespread in our country. But still, there is a lack of stringent laws to take control of it. Though on betting various courts have ruled their judgment and have provided ways to determine whether is it illegal or legal but match-fixing remains a big issue as there are no laws that can be used to give stringent punishment to the offenders. So, there is a dire need for such laws if such instances have to be reduced and sports have to be kept pure so that they don’t lose their charm and enjoyment.

Author(s) Name: Anushk Garg (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University)

References:

[1] ‘IPL 2023: Mohammed Siraj reports corrupt approach to BCCI AC’ (Times of India, 19 April 2023)  <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/ipl/top-stories/ipl-2023-mohammed-siraj-reports-corrupt-approach-to-bcci-acu/articleshow/99604823.cms> accessed 24 April 2023

[2] Law Commission of India, Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting Including in India (Law Com. No. 276 2018) <2022081655-1.pdf (s3waas.gov.in)> accessed 24 April 2023

[3] CM Gautam v State of Karnataka (2020) C.C. 2939/2020

[4] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 415

[5] Ibid

[6] Pradeep, ‘Azharuddin and 4 Others Are Punished for Cricket Match Fixing : Former India Captain Banned’ (The New York Times, 06 December 2000) <https://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/06/sports/IHT-azharuddin-and-4-others-are-punished-for-cricket-match-fixing.html> accessed 24 April 2023

[7] ‘CSK, RR suspended from IPL for 2 yrs; life ban on Kundra, Meiyappan’ The Hindustan Times <https://www.hindustantimes.com/cricket/csk-rr-suspended-from-ipl-for-2-yrs-life-ban-on-kundra-meiyappan/story-ohuSqnKufiV2JCy1BPf4fJ.html> accessed 24 April, 2023

[8] Public Gambling Act 1867, s 12

[9] Constitution of India 1950, schedule 7, List II, Entry 34

[10] Devesh Kumar, ‘Is the fantasy cricket apps legal in India: here’s what law says ’ (The Mint, 06 April 2023) <https://www.livemint.com/sports/news/is-fantasy-cricket-apps-legal-in-india-here-s-what-law-says-11680771505342.html> accessed 24 April 2023