A Delhi court has granted bail to Test cricketer S Sreesanth and 18 other people arrested on allegations of betting and spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL). It has also rejected the Delhi Police plea seeking framing of charges under the stringent MCOCA against them.
They will have to surrender their passports and they cannot travel abroad, but they are free to travel within the country, the court held. Among those granted bail today are alleged bookie and Sreesanth's friend Jiju Janardhan and cricketer Ankeet Chavan. A third Rajasthan Royals player arrested in the case, Ajit Chandila, had not applied for bail.
The cricketers and others were arrested last month on charges of spot-fixing. They will be released from Delhi's Tihar Jail on Tuesday.
The court said today that it did not find enough evidence to satisfy the charges under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) that the Delhi Police had sought last week to charge the accused under. The judge held that these were not habitual offenders.
In court, the Delhi Police struggled to justify seeking charges under MCOCA, which if accepted, would have made it tough for Sreesanth and the others to get bail.
Following the court's observations, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said it will examine the order before deciding the future course of action.
"We will examine the order and consult legal experts before deciding on future course of action," the Police Chief told PTI. He refused to take any further questions and said "let us read the order first."
The Delhi Police spent the better part of the day painstakingly detailing an alleged underworld connection to betting and spot-fixing in cricket, even reading out the transcript of what the cops claim is a phone conversation between don Dawood Ibrahim and alleged Pakistani bookie Javed Chotani discussing what seems like a property deal.
The police say they had intercepted later conversations between Chotani, also known as "Doctor" and alleged Indian bookies Tinku Mandi and Chotu Nagpur and claim that it was these phone chats that led them to stumble upon spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League.
They also told the court that they have in their possession eight phone numbers that Dawood Ibrahim allegedly uses, given to them by the Home Ministry. Dawood tops a list of wanted men in India, which believes that he lives in Pakistan.
The police have named Dawood Ibrahim and his associate Chotta Shakeel as co-accused in the betting and spot fixing case that has rocked Indian cricket since last month. They have claimed that Dawood's gang runs illegal betting in India and the money generated is siphoned out through Hawala routes.
The Enforcement Directorate has begun investigating the Hawala angle in the scandal.