In a major setback to the Delhi police, a court, on Monday, indicted them for slapping the stringent provisions of MCOCA on cricketers Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and 17 others, and granted the accused bail in the IPL spot-fixing case.
“There is no reason for believing that the accused are guilty under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) at this stage," Additional Sessions Judge Vinay Kumar Khanna said on Monday.
The court said there is prima facie "no sufficient material" against the accused to establish their "nexus" with an organised crime syndicate.
Besides the two cricketers, the court also granted the relief to 17 other accused, including 14 bookies, on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with one surety of the like amount. All will be released from Tihar Jail in Delhi on Tuesday
"There are allegations of betting by bookies and fixing by players for benefiting the syndicate.
"After probing into the matter deeply and going into the materials placed before the court, this court finds that there is no sufficient material on record to establish that there is a nexus of accused with the organised crime syndicate," the judge said.
The Delhi police have so far arrested 26 persons, including Sreesanth and two of his Rajasthan Royals teammates – Chavan and Ajit Chandila - in connection with the case.
Besides the 19 who were granted bail by the court, six others are now in judicial custody till June 18 while one of the alleged bookies, Ramesh Vyas, is in police custody till June 18.
Chandila and six others haven’t applied for bail yet.
The police failed to satisfy the court and place on record evidence to justify its decision to slap charges under MCOCA for being involved in organised crime syndicate operated by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel.
"I have to examine the evidence and then only I will be able to decide the matter and whether these people have nexus with underworld people sitting outside," the judge said.
The remarks by the judge came when the police said it would not be in a position to place before it the documents and evidence before June 18 as the probe was in an initial stage.
"It will be misuse of provisions of MCOCA, so you will have to give relevant documents. If you have booked them under MCOCA, it means you must be having proper sanction and sufficient evidence against each of them," the court said.
During the late evening hearing, Additional Public Prosecutor Rajeev Mohan said Dawood, Shakeel, Javed Churani and Salman were in constant touch with the bookies including Ramesh Vyas.
When the court wanted evidence for slapping MCOCA, the prosecutor said investigators have the transcripts of the intercepted conversations between Dawood and Vyas, which were read out in the court.
The transcripts referred to a conversation about a deal in which Rs 10 million and 9 million were mentioned which was finally settled at Rs 7 million, the police said but added the purpose of the deal was not clear.
To this, the court asked the police to clarify. "Do you have direct evidence that Sreesanth and any of the players were in direct touch with Dawood"?
The prosecutor replied in the negative but said they have got the transcripts of conversations in which Sreesanth's friend Jiju Janardan, a bookie, was in touch with Vyas.
"We have conversations of Dawood Ibrahim with bookies and bookies used to fix the players, in which Sreesanth was found talking to one bookie Jiju Janardhan about the amount he will accept for favouring them," the prosecutor said.
Sreesanth, in his bail plea, said has been falsely implicated in the case, and even when he was in police custody the probe agency was not able to provide any evidence or recover anything to would implicate him.
He said the allegations against him are false and fabricated, he never indulged in spot-fixing and always upheld the tradition and spirit of the game.
He also said there is no conversation between him and any bookie prior to the match in question and no amount was given to him by any conduit.
Image: The tainted trio in the IPL spot-fixing case - Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan