What the trial court said about the charges against Chandila
On July 25, a trial court in Delhi acquitted all 42 individuals, including Rajasthan Royals cricketer Ajit Chandila, in the IPL 2013 corruption scandal on the grounds that there was lack of sufficient evidence to charge the individuals under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. The following excerpt from the order examines the case against Chandila and the reasons why he was discharged. In its order, the court noted the activity of match-fixing is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code and hence no charges could be framed against the accused.
In the written submissions submitted on behalf of Ajit Chandila as well as in the arguments addressed in the court, the first ground on which the case of the prosecution is challenged is that the ingredients of MCOCA are not satisfied in relation to accused Ajit Chandalia. First and foremost, there has to be a continuing unlawful activity as defined under Section 2(e) of the Act. The offence which is being allegedly committed is match fixing which in itself is not an unlawful activity. Furthermore, has has been held in the case of Ranjit Singh (Supra) in order to invoke MCOCA mens rea* is necessary. The entire case of the prosecution against accused Ajit Chandila does not even prima facie show that accused Ajit Chandia was having the necessary mens rea or the knowledge that the persons with whom he was interacting were part of organized crime syndicate. It has been held in the said case that communication or association with any per son must be with the actual knowledge or having reason to believe that he is engaged in assisting the organized crime syndicate. The necessary nexus which is a prerequisite as also provided in case of Lalit Somdutt Nagpal (supra), has not been established against he accused.
It is also argued that even Section 120B IPC** is not applicable as Ajit Chandalia has neither done any illegal activity nor any other activity by illegal means. Ajit Chandalia was arrested on 16.05.13. During the scrutiny of mobile numbers of Sunil Bhatia and Kiran Dole, the underworld conduit cum henchmen, it was revealed that they both were in touch with Ajit Chandalia through mobile numbers 567094514, 9711724141, 9899999319 (which is subscribed in his name) and 93807_____ that were being used by him. These mobile numbers were taken on lawful interception and it was established that Sunil Bhatia and Kiran Dole were in touch with Ajay Chandila during IPL 6 through other crickets namely Manish Guddewar (979954607 number) and Babu Rao Yadav (9096078576). The continuous monitoring of intercepted numbers further revealed that Ajit Chandalia was also in touch with many bookies and was receiving huge amounts of money in lieu of spot/session fixing. The lawful interception led to accused Chand Bhai (916050055) and accused Manan Bhat (8758833324 and 9998288555), who were also found to be fixing Ajit Chandalia and other players of Rajasthan Royals in lieu of money, girls and gifts. The monitoring of Ajit Chandalia's number further led to coaccused Babu Rao Yadav (9555555518) who in turn was found linked with money financer Vicky Chaudhary, Vinod Sharma and Nitin Jain, all three are coaccused in this case. It has been further established through interceptions that Ajit was also in touch with another fixer from Punjab namely Deepak who is also a coaccused. Deepak in turn was found linked with Rakesh @ Rocky and Sandeep Sharma @ Sandi both of whom were financers for above said Deepak.
It is further submitted that on the basis of the disclosure statement made by Accused Ajit Chandila and coaccused Chandresh Patel, two watches were recovered which were gifted to Ajit Chandela by Chand, the fixer as part of advance for spot fixing. The Payment receipts collected from the stores from where these watches were purchased shows that the payments were made by Chand @ Chandresh Patel. Further, the record bills of Hotel JW Marriot, Jaipur of April 2013, establish that he had stayed there as member of Rajasthan Royals team, along with accused Chandresh Patel and others to plan and execute spot fixing during IPL 6 cricket matches. Ajit Chandela has also disclosed that he had been gifted expensive sunglasses in 2012, by Sunil Bhat which he had purchased from Khan Market, Delhi. Ajit Chandalia also disclosed having received Rs. 12 lacs from Sunil Bhatia in spot fixing in IPL5 in 2012, but he was forced to return the said money to Sunil Bhatia since he was unable to provide the requisite under performance to which he had agreed. During the investigations, one cheque of 4 lacs was found to be debited in the account of Sunil Bhatia. Two more cheques of Rs. 4 lacs each were recovered from Sunil Bhatia at the time of his arrest and both these cheques were found to have been dishonored due to insufficient funds.
The prosecution has also relied on the confessional statement of Sunil Bhatia under Section 18 of MCOCA, wherein Sunil Bhatia had stated that in IPL, 2012 Ajit Chandila had taken a lot of money from Tinku through Hawala, but he failed to perform on some occasions despite which he did not return the money. Sunil casually mentioned this to Tinku, who in turn called up Javed Chautani in Pakistan and requested to speak to Chota Shakeel in this regard. He also gave Ajit's number to Javed Chutani. From this, he came to know that he was having links with the underworld. It was thus, concluded that the evidence proved the involvement of Ajit Chandalia in spot fixing with accused Sunil Bhatia and Ashwani Agarwal both operative of Dawood Ibrahim Chota Shakeel syndicate and that he was aware of the fact that his associates were linked with under world.
It is further alleged that during investigations Ajit Chandalia had disclosed to have met accused Kiran Dhole in Delhi before IPL 6 and demanded Rs. 25 lakhs to which Kiran Dhole agreed. However, he failed to perform as per the demands of his fixers, Sunil Bhatia and Kiran Dhole who threatened him to return the money. Thereafter, Sunil Bhatia called Ashwani Agarwal and thereafter Ajit Chandila had to re turn Rs.20 lacs. Sunil Bhatia had also disclosed that he had arranged a meeting of Ajit Chandalia with Tinku before IPL 6 and Rs.25 lakhs were given through Hawala by Tinku. However, he did not give the requisite signals in the matches that were played and Ajit Chandalia returned 20 Lakhs in cash through one Sukharam and one Vivek, acquaintances of Kiran Dole and sought some time to return the remaining amount. It was thus concluded, that confessional statements of Sunil Bhatia and those of Sukharam and Vivek fully support the transfer of money to Ajit Chandela for match fixing.
It is argued that all this evidence that has been placed against Ajit Chandila does not even prima facie show that Ajit Chandila had any knowledge about Ashwani Aggarwal and other persons being part of the crime syndicate run by Dawood Ibrahim and Chotta Shakeel. It is further submitted that match fixing activity is not an offence under IPC and no charges can be framed against the accused, who is entitled to be discharged.
The charge that is pressed against Accused Ajit Chandalia is of being member of organized crime syndicate and being prime match fixer. The confessional statement of coaccused Sunil Bhatia makes a reference to present accused Ajit Chandalia of having taken money on two occasions for under performance, but it is mentioned in the confessional statement of Sunil Bhatia itself that on both the occasions he did not under perform and had agreed to return the money. During IPL, 2013, out of 25 lakhs that were received by him, he had returned Rs. 20 lakhs to Vivek through witness Sukharam. The statements of witnesses Sukharam and Vivek under Section 164 Cr.P.C also confirm about the return of money. The evidence even if admitted in toto, only shows that Ajit Chandela had agreed to under perform, but he did not do so. He is not shown to have cheated anybody since he did not under perform after taking money.
Furthermore, even if the confessional statement of Sunil Bhatia is accepted against accused Ajit Chandela, that 25 lakhs had been given to him by Major bookie Ashwani Aggarwal, but there is not an iota of evidence to suggest that Ajit Chandalia was aware of there being any nexus between Ashwani Aggarwal and the organized crime syndicate allegedly being run by Dawood Ibraihim and Chotta Shakeel. In order to invoke MCOCA, there has to be a link or nexus with the core syndicate which is not established. Moreover, mere agreement to underplay in itself would not fall within the definition of "unlawful activity" which is also an essential ingredient for an offence to be held as organized crime. Simply receiving gifts of watches or sunglasses from coaccused Kiran Dhole can neither be held as consideration for match fixing, nor can it be termed as any crime.
Accused Ajeet Chandila may have been shown to be knowing Kiran Dole and others, but there is no evidence whatsoever to show that he was having any knowledge of association of Sunil Bhatia, Ashawani Aggarwal and others if at all with the core syndicate. In the absence of there being any nexus of Ajit Chandalia with core crime syndicate, no offence of being a member of organized crime syndicate punishable under section 3 of MCOCA is made out. Though in the confessional statement of Sunil Bhatia there is a mention of 25 lakhs being transferred to Ajit Chandalia through Hawala, but there is no evidence to this effect on record. Ajit Chandalia may have returned Rs.20 lakhs, but there is no proof of the same except the statements of two witnesses namely Sakharam and Vivek. Even if it is accepted that Rs.20 lakhs were returned by Ajit Chandila, there cannot be any inference drawn that this was a part of Hawala transaction. No prima facie case against Ajit Chandila for any of the offences under IPC or MCOCA are made out.
*mens rea is the legal term that is used to describe the mental state a person must be in while committing a crime for the crime to be intentional. It can refer to a general intent to break the law or a premeditated plan to do so.
**Section 120(b) of the Indian Penal Code deals with punishment related to criminal conspiracy