'I am innocent' - Sreesanth
In his first public statement since his arrest last week, Sreesanth has denied any wrongdoing. Sreesanth and his two Rajasthan Royals team-mates, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, who were arrested on Thursday for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing, were remanded on Tuesday by a Delhi court to a further five days in police custody.
They were charged by Delhi Police under three laws of the Indian Penal Code: Section 409, which deals with criminal breach of trust and is a non-bailable offence; Section 420 which deals with deal with fraud and cheating; and Section 120B, which deals with deals with criminal conspiracy. The Delhi Police had registered cases against the players under Sections 420 and 120B when they were arrested in the early hours of May 16. The charge under 409 was added to the list following Rajasthan Royals' complaint against the three*.
"I am innocent and have done no wrong," Sreesanth said in a statement emailed by his lawyer, Rebecca John. "I have never indulged in any spot-fixing." He said he was confident that his name would be cleared. "As a cricketer, I have learnt to take knocks along with accolades, in my stride. I recognise that I am going through a tough period in my life. I have utmost faith in our judicial process and I am confident that with time I will be proved innocent, and my honour and dignity will be vindicated and restored."
His statement came on a day when he was first sighted since his arrest, dressed in a blue T-shirt on his way to court.
At the hearing, the police told the court that they were analysing the recorded conversations of players and bookies. Voice samples of the accused had been taken to match them with the recorded conversations. Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan told the magistrate that during the investigation several new names had cropped up and their details would be submitted to the court in a sealed cover on Wednesday.
Sreesanth's advocate John opposed the plea for police remand saying no ground was made out for seeking his further custody. She said the agency had made all recoveries and confronted all the accused with one another for the past five days.
The decision to charge the cricketers under Section 409, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, is seen as unusual as the law applies to a "criminal breach of trust" by anyone considered a "public servant" or "in the way of his business as a banker, merchant, factor, broker, attorney or agent." There were, however, two possible lines of arguments that the law could be applied to cricketers, according to Vidushpat Singhania, sports law expert and principal associate, Lakshmi Kumaran and Sridharan. The first was that, "the player is acting as an agent, in this case of Rajasthan Royals - he has been entrusted with a property under the contract with Rajasthan Royals - and he has breached that trust."
The second argument that could be made was that a player could be considered a public servant because, "he has, in Sreesanth's case for example, represented India and he has again, breached that trust they have in him." In February 2011, the Supreme Court had, for example, upheld a Kerala High Court decision that the state's cricket association officials could in any case, be considered "public servants".
Singhania said should this charge carry through and be upheld by the court, the punishment would be very stringent and could set a precedent in the future for cases involving fraud on the part of athletes, even without the introduction of a new law pertaining to fixing in sport. "There are provisions of criminal law that make it possible for it to be interpreted for the larger public good against a criminal offence."
However, it would appear that the first argument is the one being employed in this case. According to a report in the Hindu, Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said Section 409 was invoked because Sreesanth had violated the terms of his Royals' contract. The contract and its financial benefits, he said, were decided upon as per Sreesanth's "past experience and his match-winning abilities and it was an exclusive contract which granted him playing rights and performing rights, and the agreement did not allow performance for individual gain".
Sreesanth's advocate John countered that he was not entrusted with any property, or with any dominion over property, to be charged under this offence.
In a separate development, Mumbai Police announced it had made three fresh arrests, including that of Virendra Dara Singh Randhawa, also known as Vindoo, the son of famous Indian wrestler Dara Singh.
"The first [arrest] is that of Alpesh Patel, who was a hawala operator connected to these bookies. We have recovered Rs 1.28 crores (US$230,000) in cash from his premises," Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime) in Mumbai, said.
"[Vindoo] has also been arrested for links with bookies who have been arrested by us (on Saturday)," Roy said. "The third is Prem Taneja. There are in remand till May 24."
Meanwhile, PTI reports that the government-run Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd suspended Sreesanth, who was employed as an assistant manager in its marketing division and posted at Irumpanam, near Kochi.
04.15GMT, May 22: This article has been updated after details on the charges against the players emerged