Friday, June 21, 2013

FIXERS TO BE FIXED: New Law Proposes 5-Year Jail Term For Game Cheats

Bangalore: Indians playing in any part of the globe will come under the anti-matchfixing watchdog’s scanner once the law against sports corruption comes into force. And the punishment is stringent: a jail-term of five years and monetary penalties up to five times the amount gained through fixing a match.

Though many of these suggestions figured in the original draft prepared by the law ministry last month after the match-fixing scandal rocked IPL, they have been refined further by the sports ministry.

With more than adequate help from various quarters — including the law books of Australia, South Africa, UK, Brazil and other countries, besides the rules and regulations of the International Cricket Council, International Olympic Committee and football bodies FIFA and UEFA — the law ministry's draft has been overhauled. That was the sports ministry’s intention, in any case, as officials weren't too happy with the effort.

Former chief justice Mukul Mudgal, solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran and sports ministry officials put the finishing touches to the draft on Wednesday. The recommendations will be submitted to the ministry by the end of this week before it is dispatched to the law ministry next month. In all probability, the bill may be introduced in the budget session of the Parliament in July.

To begin with, the sports ministry replaced the word ‘dishonesty in sports’ with ‘sports fraud’ to include all acts which lead to corruption and illegal betting in sports. Borrowing from the international sporting community’s definition of sports fraud, it has brought into its ambit manipulation of sport results, underperforming, revealing inside information and failing to provide information pertaining to betting and/or manipulation of a sporting event among others.

In another significant change, the ministry brought in all matches in all sports played at all levels – including those played by Indians abroad – under the purview of the law. The law ministry's draft had no mention of clublevel competitions such as IPL, I-League or Hockey India League and had covered only national and international games.

“Indian national teams across various sports and games playing abroad will be under scrutiny. The law applies to the national team as well as Indian nationals travelling abroad for a sporting event. Therefore, when clubs are going abroad, the law shall apply to the Indian nationals of the clubs. In effect, teams or players found guilty of match-fixing are liable to be punished both by the country where they play the match as well as in India,” sources told TOI.

While punishment to be meted out to offenders led to diverse opinions – with a section pointing towards the international practice where a 10-year jail term was pretty much the norm – others felt that a maximum of five years would be an effective deterrent.

“We wanted to ensure that the jail term was uniform for all. The law ministry's draft had prescribed imprisonment of five years for a player and three years for a bookie. That anomaly was corrected.

“At the same time, we realized we had to deal differently with those who do not report unfair practices. What if there are players who are in the know of such happenings but choose to keep quiet? We need to treat them more leniently,” the sources said.

However, financial penalties met with an overwhelming consensus with the experts agreeing that they will have to be three-to-five times the amount gained through match-fixing.

Another thought that pervaded the discussions was the formation of an authority to monitor sports fraud.

Matches played at all levels in all sports in India will come under the purview of the antimatch-fixing law. Indian national teams playing abroad too will be under scrutiny. In the case of clubs travelling abroad, law will apply to the Indian nationals of the clubs. Originally, the law ministry had included only the national and international games in its draft. There was no mention of club-based competitions such as IPL.

The word 'dishonesty' has been replaced by sports fraud. Ambit redefined to include all acts which lead to corruption and illegal betting including manipulation of sport results, underperforming, revealing inside information etc.

A separate agency or authority to be entrusted with the job of monitoring sports fraud. The functions of this agency will be laid out in the rules.

Punishment: Opinions vary. A few feel maximum jail term should be five years. Others swear by the international norm of 10 years. Duration of jail term will be commensurate to one's involvement. Financial penalty for gains through match-fixing will be three-to-five times that of the amount gained.

Statutes of Australia, South Africa, UK, Brazil, Malta, Portugal & USA have contributed to the Indian version. Besides the rules and regulations of FIFA, UEFA, ICC and IOC have also been considered.

Experts re-drafting the Bill will submit their recommendations by this weekend. It is likely to be sent to the law ministry by next month after approval from the sports minister.

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