IPL: Talking Heads

Television debates galore, solutions aplenty, but why is no one asking the right questions?

WrittenBy:Dr. Ashoka Prasad
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I am an incorrigible cricket fan since my childhood. And I hurt when I notice the decline of the noble game and what it still represents to me. For the last few days I have been glued to the television observing with anger and disgust the antics of those associated with the game.


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Admittedly I never regarded Indian Premier League or for that matter Twenty-Twenty as true cricket.With all its razzmatazz and pomp,to me it seemed more like an Indianised version of baseball-a game that I could not take to even during my stay in the United States of America.

The fact that the people most intensely involved in the recent IPL scam are cricketers-pains me no end.I have,over the years,watched with an increasing sense of dismay,the decline in the values traditionally associated with the game. Nearly everyone in India,if the telly is any guide, has become a cricket lover.A disgusted fan,a moralist despising corruptionand an expert on how to eradicate corruption. Along with the solutions proffered by the hypocritically sanctimonious politicians,it seems that television journalists have also joined the party.

Anchor after anchor on different channels conducted countless debates-and almost all reflected a knee-jerk reaction betraying poor preparation as well as incomplete and shallow analysis on the part of those who were moderating.Some channels such as CNN-IBN presented a debate on the wider issue;whether we are more driven by greed as a society to indulge in actions of this sort and the possible solutions.

During these debates one also had to endure a very unsavoury spat between the sports journalist BoriaMajumdar and IPL critic /senior lawyer Rahul Mehra resulting in Boria actually accusing him of acting like a fool and asking him to shut up. Surely, if there was a place for the moderator to step in,this was it-but Arnab despite his efforts was unable to do so.

The reasons offered by different “experts” – for the cricketers being involved in this scam – ranged from bizarre to frankly absurd. One of them even suggested that the cricketers were acting in this manner as they were part of a larger conspiracy by the underworld to defame the country. Another – Kishore Bhimani – suggested that this was happening as betting (except horse-betting) was illegal in the country and it was about time to legalise it as in some other countries so no match-fixing could take place. Well MrBhimani,I do not lay any claim to being a sports journalist, nor am I am expert on any sport, but I do know that result-fixing is very much a part of the sport culture even in the countries where betting is perfectly legal.I recall the scandal that emerged in horse-loving Ireland back in the 70s.

According to me, the reason for this scam is simply the lure of easy money-nothing more, nothing less. Remove betting,it would continue,legalise betting it would stay. That factor is completely irrelevant. The truth is that the country has been glamourising easy money for the last two decades. All the role-models that the young have are go-getters with access to easy money without any regard for the means employed to get such wealth. The country is in a state of moral crisis .And unless we address this, aberrant conduct such as the IPL spot-fixing scam will persist.

It was, however, the solutions offered that left me more worried.Channel after channel,expert after expert, player after player and politician after politician were on the same track i.e. we need new laws enacted. The only exception was the articulate Mohandas Pai on CNN-IBN who made the most sensible comment – that it was not the paucity of legislation that was at the root of this problem but the absence of any will to enforce the existing legislations that we have.

I fully agree with Pai and it worries me that we tend to go in for knee-jerk solutions which are reflective of our excessive emotional quotient. We had observed the clamour for new laws after the Delhi rapes and the most balanced statement had at the time emerged from ShabanaAzmi who had stated that legislative deficiency was not at the root of the crimes but our inability to enforce the statutory provisions.I am not sure why journalists could not identify the merit in Shabana and Pai’s statements and have a debate on that.

The most bizarre statement came from KapilSibal,the Law Minister on a number of channels. Sibal is a successful lawyer. All the more surprising that he opted for a new law on the basis that Section 420 of the IPC would be difficult to apply here.

I shall reproduce the statute as it reads:

Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property– Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Of fraudulent deeds and dispositions of property

Even a cursory reading of the Act makes it very clear that it can easily be applied here-and it carries a maximum sentence of seven years which is an effective deterrent by most standards. All the more surprising is why there have been no prosecutions earlier of those who have been found to indulge in this nefarious practice.

If we do not effectively exercise the legislations we have,then it does not make any sense to ask for new legislations. The first and foremost problem is the inertia that pervades law enforcers as we all know that when in India people are prosecuted by the police,it is not just the transgression of law that motivates the prosecutors but a number of other factors.

We also know the shambles the investigating machinery is in which makes it even more perplexing .And I agree with Soli Sorabjee when he says that the criminal justice system has completely broken down in our country.Less than seven percent of all criminal prosecutions result in convictions.

Getting a new piece of legislation is not going to address the malaise as all of us can see for ourselves. We need to ensure the independence of police investigations. And we need to update the investigating tools available to our investigators. Additionally, my own view is that the adversarial system of criminal justice we inherited from the British has failed to provide us with the justice we need in the country. Elsewhere in Newslaundry,I have discussed the superiority of the inquisitorial system the French follow-where  a suspect goes through multiple inquisitions-on an average about 5 by the police,at least two by the prosecutor and at least one by a judge who then decides on the charges to be framed. The trial judge is different from the judge who frames charges. The conviction rate in France is about 95 per cent, far superior to the ones we have-or even the English have (conviction rate around 20 per cent).And once the person is convicted we need to ensure that he/she never gets to take liberties and visit discos.

Those are the measures that would act as deterrents-and those are the changes we need. It is distressing that not many channels followed this trajectory.

Plus there is another urgent measure we need to take urgently. We need to get rid of fulltime politicians from sports bodies. They have harmed the cause of sports enough and I feel the threshold has now been exceeded.BCCI Chief Srinivasan was pathetically equivocal in his interview with Karan Thapar.Even more pathetic was IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla,primarily known as a lapsed journalist,active politician and hyperactive propagandist.

His commitment to the game of cricket is questionable and I doubt whether he carries any credibility as a cricket administrator. A fan like me is experiencing pain over what happened. I did not see any pain being reflected in his delayed and highly unsatisfactory response.

For starters, it is about time for Shukla to be sacked as the buck stops with him. I sincerely hope cricket fans here share my sentiments.

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