No cheating or conspiracy under IPC for match-fixing: Karnataka High Court

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A single-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court in a decision dated 10 January 2022 has held that cricket match-fixing does not amount to the offense of cheating under Section 420 IPC. The bench presided by 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 offense.” Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar is also hearing the petition filed by Dream11 founders for quashing the FIR for violation of the recently notified Karnataka online gaming ban law.

By allowing the petitions, the bench quashed the criminal proceedings pending before the Metropolitan Magistrate, Bengaluru. “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 offense,” the Court held.

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The case is pertaining to the fixing of Karnataka Premier League (KPL) matches held between 15th and 31st August of the year 2019. In September 2019, Belagavi Panthers’ owner Asfaq Ali Thara and others were arrested for their alleged involvement in a betting scam involving the Panthers. C.M. Gautam, a first-class player who appeared in the squad of three IPL teams earlier, and his former Karnataka teammate Abrar Qazi of Bellary Tuskers were among the accused. Belagavi Panthers franchise was subsequently suspended from KPL.

The court also held 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“.

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The Court held that a case under Section 420 IPC is not sustainable and for the same reason the offense of conspiracy punishable according to section 120B is also not sustainable. “The entire argument that statement of a co-accused during interrogation in connection with some other crime cannot form basis for registration of FIR is totally unfounded,” the Court held.

On conspiracy charges, the Court held that the question of inducement by viewers to buy a ticket can be ruled out as viewers buy tickets voluntarily. “To invoke this offense of conspiracy, the allegations found in the charge sheet must constitute an offense in connection with which conspiracy is alleged. The allegations found in the charge sheet do not constitute an offense under section 420 IPC and therefore offense under section 120B cannot be invoked in the facts and circumstances.”