In a surprising judgement delivered on July 25, the Patiala House Court in New Delhi dropped all charges of spot-fixing against cricketers S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila. The three cricketers had been arrested in 2013 for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing during that year’s IPL season and had been charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act.

However, the judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the trio under the terms of the MCOCA Act. Sreesanth was in a predictably celebratory mood after the judgement, praising the verdict and declaring that he couldn’t wait to bowl his trademark outswingers.

BCCI ban continues

However, his joy could prove to be short-lived. The Board of Control for Cricket in India remained unperturbed by the judgement declaring that the verdict did not change their stance on Sreesanth and the others even the slightest – their ban on them would stay in place.

Contempt of court? Not really. As Suhrith Parthsarathy explains, the BCCI has enough justification to continue the ban. As the BCCI has pointed out, “any disciplinary proceeding or decision taken by the BCCI is independent to any criminal proceeding and has no bearing. The decisions of the BCCI, based on its independent disciplinary action, shall remain unaltered.”

In plainspeak, the BCCI has already conducted its own independent enquiry, judged that Sreesanth and the others were guilty of spot-fixing and banned them. As a private body, no decision taken by any court has any bearing on their decisions.

No evidence for charges to be framed under the MCOCA Act

And before the predictable outrage about the BCCI being high-handed starts, it’s worthwhile to look at the intricacies of the judgement. The Delhi Police had chargesheeted the cricketers under the MCOCA Act, since there are no Indian laws to deal with spot-fixing. While spot-fixing is nefarious, perhaps it is a bit of a stretch to argue that it is a type of “organized crime”, precisely what the MCOCA deals with.

This was basically the judiciary’s point of contention – it never declared that Sreesanth and the others were not guilty of spot-fixing. It merely pointed out that there was not enough evidence to frame charges against them under the MCOCA, and hence set them free. And this is actually a good precedent – it might finally lead to the formation of a new law to tackle spot-fixing in India.

Coming back to Sreesanth. While you can’t blame the maverick cricketer’s joy at being exonerated, his comments that he would request the BCCI to use their facilities seems like wishful thinking. For their part, the BCCI gains absolutely nothing if they suddenly choose to overturn the bans. In fact, going by present circumstances where the BCCI has been singed by one corruption scandal after another, it could actually hurt them further. It could further the impression that the BCCI is “soft” on corruption – something they definitely don’t need right now.

So, congratulations, of sorts, to Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila, but there doesn’t seem to be too much light at the end of the road.

Dada comes out swinging for Sreesanth

Or is there?

The first person to react to the acquittal was Sourav Ganguly, who went on record saying, “it’s very good for them” and even more interestingly, “I don’t think the BCCI will have a problem.”

Any other day, this wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Ganguly has captained Sreesanth and obviously has due cause to celebrate his exoneration.

However, in the murky world of BCCI, things are never as they seem and his comment about the BCCI not having a problem with their exoneration is interesting. Ganguly has shared a traditionally strong relationship with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the current president of the BCCI. Could there be more to his comment than what meets the eye?

Who knows? This is the BCCI after all – where every day witnesses some new Machiavellian intrigue. Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan though will keep their fingers crossed.