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New law must fix match-fixers

The law ministry’s announcement this Saturday that the government plans to bring in a stand-alone legislation to check match-fixing and spot-fixing in sports is welcome. The sporting values of integrity, fair play and respect for others have taken a backseat in recent years with match-fixing, along with its corrosive influence, having become pervasive in sports, not just in India but the world over. These corrupt practices happen not just in cricket but in many sports, with possible the first recorded instance in modern history being the 1915 match between Manchester United and Liverpool, fixed in Manchester’s favour. Though many countries have such a law, attempts to legislate on this topic in India have not been successful, with the Sporting Events (Prevention of Dishonest Practices) Bill 2004, never having seen the light of the day. The scandal this month in the IPL has once again brought the absence of integrity in sports to the forefront, and has raised demands for specific laws to deal with it. It is true that the existing law does cover this sort of activity in the provisions against fraud, cheating and illegal gambling but shortcomings mean that it is not always applicable in cases of importance, with Muhammad Azaruddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar having escaped the law despite serious accusations. There is, therefore, the necessity to make illegal activities affecting the integrity of sport specifically criminal offences. These kinds of sporting manipulations are not a simple breach of sporting rules but are offences against the public in a broader sense and are a public interest issue.

Sports corruption is any illegal, immoral or unethical activity that attempts to deliberately distort the result of a sporting contest, or any element of it, for direct or indirect financial benefits or for the personal material gain of one or more parties involved in that activity. It is not just a question of the effect on the sport and its values when the trust in the unpredictability of the sporting result is lost and of the damage to the sport’s social, educational and cultural purposes. It is also that this criminal activity has cross-border and international dimensions as well huge economic implications, being orchestrated by criminal organisations and organised crime, which benefit enormously. This, in turn, adversely affects the nation besides making unpalatable the sport. An effective legislation is the way forward to curb the manipulation of sports results for the purposes of illegal betting and to end match-fixing and spot-fixing in Indian cricket.
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