A stringent law to curb match-fixing on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) is being authored by the Union Law Ministry. The ministry was forced to do so after the IPL spot-fixing scandal exposed lacunae in the regulations, which treat serious offence with little punishment.
Though the first match-fixing scandal in cricket came to light 13 years ago, and skipper-turned-Member of Parliament Mohammad Azharuddin and all-rounder Ajay Jadeja were banned for their involvement in it, successive governments failed to enact a separate law or amend the Indian Penal Code, which does not recognise match-fixing as a criminal offence.
Law Ministry sources said that a national law to curtail fixing of sporting events on the line of the MCOCA is possible without taking states’ opinion.
So far, bookies and punters were booked under the Public Gambling Act, which hands down only three months of imprisonment and a fine of a few hundred rupees.
It is learnt that the ministry had sought the opinion of Attorney General G Vahanvati, who felt that there is a need to give teeth to the laws since in gambling the outcome is not uncertain, but in fixing, whether it is underperforming only for an occasion or affecting the result of a game, the bookies know the course the match will take, sources said.
The ministry sources said that as per the majority opinion among legal experts, the offence will be treated as non-bailable under the proposed law. Law officers are also contemplating enhancing the prison term to 10 years and the fine up to Rs 5 lakh so that they act as deterrents, as bookies and punters end up making huge money.
To make the proceeds from crime, which is fixing the game, an illegitimate source of income, the proposed law may source some portions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to confiscate earnings from this illegal business.
The ministry is likely to announce the proposed law on Saturday as the government is under pressure to amend legislation to bring it in tune with the changing times.