What the trial court said about the charges against Sreesanth
Sreesanth, the India and Rajasthan Royals fast bowler, was one of several individuals arrested in May 2013 on allegations of his involvement in spot-fixing during IPL 2013. Sreesanth was chargesheeted by the Delhi Police in the case but a trial court in Delhi dropped charges against the cricketer, and 41 other individuals in the case, due to insufficient evidence for prosecution under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. This excerpt from the court's order shows the charges and evidence presented by Delhi Police and the prosecution, and the reasons for the court's decision to drop charges.
The case of the prosecution against accused S. Shreesanth are that accused P. Jiju Janardhanan @ Jiju close friend of S. Shreesanth persuaded him to participate in spot fixing in lieu of payment of Rs.60 lacs in cash in exchange of which S. Shreesanth was to concede 14+ runs in one over in a match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, to be played at Mohali on 09.05.2013. Pursuant to this conspiracy, Rs.10 lacs as advance was given by P. Jiju Janardhanan to S. Shreesanth in first week of May, 2013. As per the plan, Sreesanth was to give a signal by tucking his handtowel in his trouser and by doing some stretching exercise which would act as a signal before the fixed over. Despite best efforts, S. Shreesanth could concede 13 runs in the said over. Intercepted calls of bookies show that they appreciated the efforts that S. Shreesanth had put during the said over.
It is the case of the prosecution that from the advance money that was paid to S. Shreesanth, he purchased two mobile phones from Jaipur and gave them to his two friends Sakshi Jhala and Deepika, which were later on recovered from them. Rs. 1.93 lacs were spent by him at Diesel Store, at Juhu, Mumbai to buy clothes on 14/15.05.2013. The amount of Rs. 5.5 lacs were allegedly removed by coaccused Abhishek Shukla.
In order to corroborate these assertions, the prosecution has relied upon the intercepted calls between accused P. Jiju Janardhanan and S. Shreesanth as well as between P. Jiju Janardhanan and various other bookies and also inter se conversations between the bookies. The allegations of the prosecution against accused P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju who was arrested on 16.05.2013 from Mumbai, is that he is a close friend of accused S. Sreesant of Rajasthan Royals and had stayed with him at MRF Polo Academy, Chennai where both of them had done training during 20012003 P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju himself was a cricketer and had played for Gujarat at which time he became a close friend of accused Amit Kumar Singh. It is alleged that during IPL6, Amit Kumar Singh approached P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju to involve S. Sreesanth in spot fixing in lieu of Rs. 60 Lakhs per performance. Accused P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju had succeeded in persuading S. Sreesant as per the wishes of the Syndicate during the match played between Kings X1 Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, for consideration of Rs. 60Lakhs.
In the first week of May, 2013 P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju took Rs. 10 Lakhs in cash from Chandresh Patel at J.W Mariot Hotel at Jaipur, Rajasthan. From this amount he purchased two mobiles phones for S. Sreesanth, who in turn gave them to his two girl friends namely Shakshi Jhala and Deepika who were both resident of Jaipur. P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju and accused Sreesanth also spent 1.93 Lakhs for purchasing clothes in a store at Mumbai. It is alleged that after S. Sreesant was arrested P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju managed to remove unspent cash with the help of coaccused Abhishek Shukla from his hotel Sofitel room.
The prosecution has tried to cement these assertions by intercepted calls between S. Sreesanth and P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju who were discussing about Rs. 3 Lakhs to be retained by P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju while Rs. 7 Lakhs to be taken by S. Sreesanth. Besides this, the prosecution has relied upon other intercepted calls to establish his deep involvement in IPL6 spot and session match fixing.
Accused Abhishek Shukla was arrested on 28.05.2013. He is claimed to be a friend of accused S. Sreesant and P. Jiju Janadanan. It is claimed that when S. Sreesanth and P. Jiju Janardanan were arrested, he removed the proceeds of spot fixing i.e Rs.5.5 lakhs from their room at Hotel Sofitel, Mumbai and retained the same with himself. This cash of Rs.5.5 lakhs was recovered from his Flat No.3, Vabhibari Cooperative Housing Society, No.4 Bunglow, Church Lane, West MumbaI. Also, CCTV footage recorded on 16.05.2013 of Hotel Sfitel, Mumbai show that he had removed the articles from the room, after the arrest of accused S. Sreesanth. Two mobile phones were also recovered from him at the time of his arrest. The scrutiny of call details show that he was in constant contact with accused S. Sreesant and P. Jiju Janardanan. He had also accompanied accused S. Sreesant and P. Jiju Janardanan to Diesel Store, Mumbai for shopping. It is claimed that the continuous presence of accused Abhishek Shukla at various match venues shows his close link with accused S. Sreesant and P. Jiju Janardanan.
It has been argued that there is not a single statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C or any intercepted phone call between P. Jiju Janardhanan and S. Sreesanth that could indicate that P. Jiju Janardhanan had persuaded S. Shreesanth to participate in the act of spot fixing or that S. Shreesanth had consented to concede 14+ runs in the fixed over. Furthermore, there is not a single phone call conversation between S. Shreesanth and any other alleged bookie or the so called member of organized crime syndicate. The only incriminating evidence relied upon by the prosecution is the conversation between P. Jiju Janardhanan and Chandresh Patel @ Chand (Bookie) wherein P. Jiju Janardhanan was telling Chandresh Patel that "He is little stubborn about this. He is playing after a long time and he is risking time.... maine usko samjha diya, but he did not want to take risk". This conversation is of 9th May, 2013 at 12.13 P.M and is, therefore, closest to the point of time to the match in question. This clearly reveals the intention of S. Shreesanth.
In Dr. Arup Kumar Srivastava vs. CBI Crl.M.C 4360/2012 decided on 21.11.2013 it was held by Hon'ble High Court of Delhi that all calls must be corelated and if one call demolishes the content of other incriminating call, the benefit of the same should be given to the accused. It was thus, argued that there is not an iota of evidence to show that there was an agreement for payment of Rs.60 lacs to S. Shreesanth for fixing an over by conceding 14+ runs in the match to be played on 09.05.2013. There is also no evidence whatsoever to show that an amount of Rs.10 lacs had been handed over to P. Jiju Janardhanan by the bookies, which in turn was handed over by him to S. Shreesanth. The conversation between P. Jiju Janardhanan and S. Sreesanth are innocuous and are not suggestive that any money came from the so called spot fixing fund. All that S. Shreesanth was asking P. Jiju Janardhanan to do was to buy two cellphones.
It is further argued that in so far as tucking of towel in the pants and doing stretching exercise in an over is concerned, S. Shreesanth regularly did so as generally other players all over the world, do. It is further argued that the alleged conversation between Chandresh Patel and Jitender Kumar Jain @ Jeetu Tharad is only for conceding of 14+ runs in a given over, but there is no mention of the same pertaining to S. Shreesanth. It was further stated that if 13 runs were conceded, then the deal would be cancelled. As it turned out, S. Sreesanth gave away only 13 runs and even if the case of the prosecution is accepted, the deal was not fulfilled.
It was further argued that the detailed analysis of the over in question would show that S. Sreesanth had bowled a legal and competent over, as in the first four balls, only five runs were conceded. The first and third delivery were dot balls and only one run was conceded in the fourth ball. No extra run was conceded on account of wide, no ball etc.
It is further argued that S. Sreesanth had signed the IPL contract for which he was to earn 1 Crore 84 Lacs in the session in question. On 03.04.2013, his account balance in HSBC Bank was Rs.36,23,101/ and his total ATM cash withdrawn for the period April, 2013 was over Rs.10 lacs. In the given scenario, no presumption could be raised that the purchase made by the S. Shreesanth were from the advance received from the bookies or that such expenses were not made from his legally earned income.
It is further argued that the recovery of Rs.5.5 lac from the house of Abhishek Shukla is sham and it is the disclosure statement masquerading as seizure/recovery memo. At best, it can be said that Rs.5.5 lacs were recovered from him, but that recovery cannot be connected to S. Shreesanth on the basis of disclosure statement of Abhishek Shukla.
It has been further pointed out that the call detail records of mobile number of S. Shreesanth and P. Jiju Janardhanan had material discrepancies and also these conversations have been intercepted in violation of Section 5 of Telegraph Act and per se not admissible. Moreover, intercepted conversations are not substantive evidence but only corroborative in nature. Likewise, the disclosure statements of S. Sreesanth are inadmissible by virtue of Section 25 and 26 of Indian Evidence Act. It is thus, argued that there is no prima facie evidence to show that S. Shreesanth was a part of the organized crime Syndicate or was involved in any continuing unlawful activity. No previous charge sheet of any offence has been filed against him and there is no evidence to infer any conspiracy between him and P. Jiju Janardhanan. It is, therefore, argued that S. Shreesanth is entitled to be discharged.
As already discussed above, in order to invoke Section 3 and 4 of MCOCA against the accused S. Shreesanth, Jiju Janardhan and Abhishek Shukla, the first requirement is that they must be shown to be members of the Organized Crime Syndicate. As per the prosecution the organized Crime Syndicate were being run by Dawood and Chotta Shakeel for carrying out various unlawful activities of murder, exhortation, terrorism and money laundering. The prosecution in order to invoke MCOCA was first required to show some nexus or link between the crime syndicate and the accused S. Shreesanth. The only link that has been shown is P. Jiju Janardhanan. However, the conversation between P. Jiju Janardhanan and S. Shreesanth does not show that P. Jiju Janardhanan had approached S. Shreesanth for fixing the over or that it was done as a part of activity of crime syndicate run by Dawood and Chotta Shakeel. Furthermore, it has been rightly pointed out by the Ld. Counsel for the accused that the conversation between P. Jiju Janardhanan and S. Shreesanth are innocuous and do not in any manner reveal the conspiracy of fixing the over. The conversation dated 09.05.2013 between Chandresh Patel and P. Jiju Janardhanan in fact, clinches the issue for it is evident from the conversation that S. Shreesanth was not willing to fix the over since he had come to play the game after a long time and was not willing to take a risk. This is further confirmed from the fact that the alleged fixed over ended upto in 13 runs as against the agreed 14+ runs. As per the conversation between Chandresh Patel and Jitender Kumar Jain @ Jitu the deal for alleged payment of Rs.60 lacs was to stand cancelled in case less than 14 runs were conceded. As has been argued, there were only 13 runs conceded and thus, deal, if any, was never given effect to.
The other evidence on which the prosecution has relied is the disclosure statement of S. Shreesanth which are per se inadmissible under Section 25 and 26 of Indian Evidence Act. As rightly argued, mere recovery of Rs.5.5 lacs from the house of Abhishek Shukla cannot connect the accused S. Shreesanth with the said recovery and no conclusion prima facie can be drawn that it was part of Rs.10 lacs that were allegedly given as advance for playing the fixed over.
The prosecution has alleged that P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju was the conduit to fix S. Sreesanth for which it has relied on two telephonic conversations of 6.5.2013. The content of first conversation show that S. Sreesant asked P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju to buy three phones and P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju stated: "3 chahiye, OK , Mein dekhta hoon........ baki laga dega......... paisa kyon kharch karna hain .......... Abhi das hai............ teen leta hoon .............7 yahi rakha hai , 7 tere ko de dunga , kab chahiye batana."
The second conversation is only to decide the model of 2 mobile phones that were to be purchased.
The only implication that can be drawn from these conversations is that P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju was having ostensibly Rs. 10 Lakhs from which he agreed to bring Rs. 3 Lakhs for making purchases including that of three mobile phones that were requested to be purchased by S. Sreesanth. While he agreed to retain seven lakhs to be given subsequently. The maximum inference that can be drawn is that P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju was having only Rs. 10 Lakhs, out of which he agreed to make purchases from 3 Lakhs while Rs. 7 Lakhs were to be retained for the future. This in itself does not remotely show that P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju had accepted Rs. 10 Lakhs for and on behalf of S. Sreesanth for the purpose of match fixing. The evidence against P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju neither shows that he was involved in fixing S. Sreesanth or of accepting Rs. 10 Lakhs from any bookie. There is absolutely no evidence against P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju to show that he was involved or was a conduit in fixing S. Sreesant to play a fixed match. Also, there is no nexus shown of P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju with any of the bookies who were allegedly in touch with Doctor Javed Chutani, who was a part of the alleged organized crime syndicate of Dawood or chotta Shakeel. Neither the offence under MCOCA or under any section of IPC or any other Law is primafacie is made out against P. Jiju Janardanan @ Jiju.
The entire evidence as placed against Jiju Janardhan, Sreesanth and Abhishek Shukla only shows that Sreesanth was approached by Jiju Janardhan to play a fixed over at the behest of Chandresh Patel but the same did not happen and Sreesanth had also refused to play the fixed over. No evidence whatsoever is placed on record to show that they were in communication with or associated with organized crime syndicate and were the abettors of the crimes allegedly being committed by the syndicate.
At the point of repetition, it may also be pointed out that the other essential ingredient for invoking MCOCA is that there should be "continuing unlawful activity" which means that there should be some nexus shown between these three accused and the alleged crime syndicate, which is wanting. Also, there should be atleast two charge sheets in preceding ten years in regard to offence punishable with the sentence of three years or more and in which cognizance must have been taken by the Court of competent jurisdiction. There is not even a single criminal case that has been registered against the accused S. Shreesanth, Jiju Janardhan and Abhishek Shukla prior to the present case. In the absence of this and of nexus with the crime syndicate, it cannot be said that he was indulging in continuing unlawful activity.
Even if the entire prosecution as produced against accused S. Shreesanth, Jiju Janardhan and Abhishek Shukla by the prosecution is admitted, then too no prima facie case in any offence including Section 3 MCOCA is made out against the accused persons and they are entitled to be discharged.