Sreesanth lawyer questions need to make match fixing a crime in India

ICC and BCCI have both expressed the belief it would benefit the sport

The lawyer who represented Sreesanth after the IPL corruption controversy of 2013 has questioned the need for a proposed new law to criminalise match fixing in India.

Last year, Sri Lanka became the first Asian country to pass a law specific to fixing in cricket, which now carries with it a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

Earlier this month it was reported that Prime Minister Imran Khan had also approved a plan to make it a criminal offence in Pakistan.

The ICC and Indian board have both expressed the belief it would benefit the sport if India followed suit.

Steve Richardson, the coordinator of investigations for the ICC's anti-corruption unit, said on Saturday that such a move would be a "gamechanger" for the international game.

In an online forum organised by the Sports Law and Policy Centre in Bengaluru, Richardson said the majority of the nearly 50 active investigations into corruption in cricket “have links back to corruptors in India”.

“It would be the single most effective thing to happen, in terms of protecting the sport, if India introduced match-fixing legislation,” Richardson said.

Ajit Singh, the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s anti-corruption unit, supported that viewpoint.

“Definitely there is a requirement for a law, and a law which criminalises match fixing,” Singh said.

“It needs to be a regulatory law. If you don’t criminalise it, the situation is what it is right now.”

In the same forum, lawyer Rebecca John cast doubt on the proposal.

As a criminal lawyer, I have problems with over-criminalising human activity, and I have problems with over sentencing

“As a criminal lawyer, I have problems with over-criminalising human activity, and I have problems with over sentencing,” she said.

“In a country which is struggling with its criminal justice system. In a country where a rape victim finds it very difficult to file a criminal complaint with a police station, much less pursue the matter in a court of law.

“In a country where you are overwhelmed with criminal cases. In a country where the Supreme Court has, time and again, said that regulatory bodies must do their job, I don’t understand why you need to criminalise events like these.

“What is the regulatory body doing?”

John was the lawyer for Sreesanth, the former India fast bowler, who was banned from cricket in 2013 for his role in the spot-fixing controversy of that season's IPL.

He spent a brief period in jail, but, in 2015, a district court in Delhi discharged Sreesanth, as well as two other players from Rajasthan Royals.

Sreesanth has now completed his seven-year ban from playing, and has been named as part of Kerala’s probables squad for the Ranji Trophy.

“There are so many people beyond the purview of the regulatory body whom we can’t control,” John said.

“So, if we are going to bring in a law – and I am very, very sceptical about any law – you must ensure that the long arm of the law reaches the right people.

“The people who start this, who are sending down the money through their various channels, and then if it connects to the player, I guess it can be argued that there may be a case.

“As it exists, I don’t see how there can be a way forward. It is a waste of time.”