Del HC | India – South Africa Cricket Series Conspiracy | Sanjeev Chawla alleged in criminal conspiracy of match fixing to be in police custody for investigation at Tihar only

Delhi High Court: Anu Malhotra, J., while deciding a petition with regard to the investigation of Sanjeev Chawla alleged for acting as a bookie in fixing the India and South Africa cricket matches from 16-02-2000 to 20-03-2000, held that,

“Investigating Agency in the said matter is permitted to conduct an interrogation of the petitioner at Tihar jail complex only in terms of timeline stipulated in terms of Section 167(2) of CrPC, 1973, for a period not exceeding 15 days from the date of arrest.”

Background of the Case

Sanjeev Chawal (Petitioner) a citizen of United Kingdom was an accused under Section 173 of CrPC for the allegation of commission of offences punishable under Section 420/120-B Penal Code, 1860 in relation to,

An alleged conspiracy to fix matches during the India-South Africa Cricket series played through February-March, 2000 in alleged connivance with Hansie Cronje, Captain of South Africa Cricket Team.

Petitioner had allegations of being the main conduit in match-fixing.

Averments in the police report under Section 172 of CrPC submitted by the Crime Branch, three accused persons were arrested, Sanjeev Chawla (Petitioner) and Manmohan Khattar allegedly absconded having left for UK and Canada, respectively.

Petitioner had further been extradited on 12-02-2020.

Through the petition filed, petitioner submitted that trial court failed to consider and take into account the three Letters of Assurances of the Ministry of Home Affairs, whereby the Government of India had given a solemn sovereign assurance that at all times and during pre-trial custody, petitioner would be lodged at the Tihar Jail Complex, Delhi and that thus, no police remand could be granted and that the petitioner had been extradited from the United Kingdom only to face trial and not for any investigation.

Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa, on behalf of the petitioner reiterated that the extradition had been granted only on the basis that the petitioner was being extradited to face trial and not for any investigation and thus, no investigation could be carried out nor permitted and that the pre-trial detention of the petitioner could only mean detention at the Tihar Jail and nowhere else as had been stated by the Government of India.

Further adding to the above, Clauses 9&10 of the Guidelines for Extradition issues by Ministry of External Affairs in India categorically spelt out the extradition could be granted only for the trial on the basis of the evidence made available in the charge sheet and not for the purpose of any investigation.

APP, Kewal Singh Ahuja on behalf of the Government (NCT of Delhi) submitted that during the investigation it was found that the present petitioner had played the most vital role in the commission of the crime. Statements of Hansie Cronje and Hamid Cassim before the Kings Commission allegedly clearly pointed to his deep-rooted involvement in the case.

It was submitted by ASG, through the status report that neither the Investigating Agency nor the Government of India, had given any assurances that on extradition no further investigation in the matter could be carried out and that for the purposes of a fair trial, petitioner has to be confronted with the evidence against him to unearth the whole conspiracy.

“..in terms of the law of the land Section 173(8) of the Cr.P.C., 1973 provides for continuing investigation even after the filing of the police report under Section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C., 1973”

Thus, in the above view, it is submitted that the police interrogation of the petitioner was very essential.

Union of India submitted that,

“…from the investigation conducted so far, there is sufficient evidence to prove that the accused persons namely Sanjeev Chawla, Hansie Cronje, Krishan Kumar, Rajesh Kalra, Sunil Dara @ Bittoo and Manmohan Khatter mentioned in Column No 11 of the chargesheet had entered into a criminal conspiracy to fix the cricket matches played between India and South Africa from 16.02.2000 to 20.03.2000 in India.”

Union of India relied on the Extradition Treaty and the instruments of ratification between India and U.K.

Adding to above submissions, UOI submitted that petitioner falls under the category of “fugitive criminal” in terms of Section 2(f) of the Extradition Act, 1962 and thus trial of the petitioner qua the alleged commission of offence punishable under Section 420/120 IPC has to be conducted in which would not preclude the Investigating Agency from invocation of the powers of investigation in terms of Section 173(2) of CrPC.

“… in terms of Article 11 Sub-clause 3 of the Extradition Treaty between the United Kingdom and India, it is not necessary that the extradition can be made only when a charge sheet has been filed but if the material placed is sufficient to justify committal for trial to indicate that there is prima facie material to satisfy the Requested State that the fugitive is involved in the offence/ offences, the same would suffice to grant the prayer for extradition.”

Decision

ASG Supreme Court of India Sanjay Jain on behalf of Union of India expressly stated that the terms of Letter of Assurances would be followed in letter and spirit and that petitioner would not be taken out of Tihar Jail except with permission, granted by Court in terms of Section 173(8) of CrPC.

Thus, the bench disposed of the petition with a direction to effect that impugned order of trial court is modified to the effect that the petitioner during the entire stage of pre-trial detention, trial and conviction, if any, in terms of Letters of Assurances would continue to be lodged at Tihar Jail.

Further, petitioner cannot be taken out of Tihar jail for the purpose of investigation or interrogation in police custody, through the investigating agency in the matter is permitted to conduct the same at Tihar jail only.

The period of investigation will end on 28-02-2020; whereafter no further investigation will be granted.

Court also stated that the Investigating Agency shall, however, take care to ensure that the petitioner is treated with dignity during the investigation and interrogation conducted. [Sanjeev Kumar Chawla v. State, Crl. M.C. No. 870 of 2020, decided on 20-02-2020]

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