Chandrachud report? Don't hold your breath

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Friday, March 17, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The anxiety is likely to end soon. It will, however, be replaced by utter disappointment. People, and there are many, from highly-placed persons in the government and cricket administration to the lay follower of the game, who have been waiting for the Justice Y V Chandrachud inquiry commission report to be released, will find nothing sensational, and, perhaps, even meaningful, if and when it is made public.

It has been two years in the cold storage. So much has happened in the world of cricket, by way of one betting and match-fixing scandal to another, during that period, that the final findings and justice Chandrachud's opinions on the subject might appear outdated.

The Chandrachud report may not have been made officially public, but a couple of years ago, when it was presented to the then president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Raj Singh Dungarpur, 'The Hindu' newspaper had serialised its excerpts. I too had had a sneak preview of the relevant portions of the same.

One need not ask how the report leaked out, because the other day, even former BCCI chief N K P Salve had walked with a copy into the news studios of NDTV during the Star TV prime English news bullein.

Salve was seen leafing through the marked portions and quoting what Manoj Prabhakar had told the former Chief Justice of India at the inquiry. And what the conclusions of the learned judge were.

The report gives out complete details of the interviews that he had had with past and the current players then and others, including a few journalists.

Justice Chandrachud, even though he was asked to undertake what must have indeed been an unpleasant task of asking a few embarrassing questions of the leading cricketers of the day, actually is unable to hide his excitement in meeting some his cricketing heroes, as the report will reveal.

In almost its entirety, the report speaks in laudatory terms about the players, except one, Manoj Prabhakar, whom he has severely criticised for making baseless charges.

Prabhakar was the only one who had appeared before the inquiry commission along with his lawyer. Following his advocate's instructions, he was careful, if not somewhat wary, of providing the answers and substantiating his charges. On his counsel's advice, he had also refrained from giving out any names.

Except indicting Manoj Prabhakar, and merely for making irresponsible charges, there is nothing in the report that gives a serious thought to the betting and match-fixing scandal that has rocked the game of cricket at the international level.

All the players have been given certificates of good behaviour. Even his suspicion that one or two of them may have been having a small flutter of a bet is not taken seriously by him.

According to the Commission of Inquiries Act of India, probe reports and findings of inquiry commissions appointed by the government, or any statutory body, do not carry the force of a court of law. The findings may be accepted wholly or partly or rejected totally.

There is much less chance, therefore, for the report of a commission of inquiry appointed by a private agency like the Board of Control for Cricket in India to have any teeth in legal terms.

It was, however, highly surprising that Raj Singh Dungarpur, the BCCI chief during whose regime so much had happened, should justify the non-publishing of the final report by saying that the appointment of the Chandrachud commission was "an in-house" affair.

"As such, we felt it would have served no purpose by making the report public," he said last Sunday night during an interview on Star TV.

Are the existence of several betting syndicates, with a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore on just one big match-day, and suspected match-fixing activities with international ramifications, an issue that can be wished off as being merely "in-house?" Do the cricket-crazy populace of the country, promoters and sponsors who pour in billions, have no stake in the game? Do they have no right to know what the hell is going on and who is guilty and who is not when suspicions are raised?

The cricket boards, and even the International Cricket Council, may not have the jurisdiction on detecting or checking the betting part of the fast-growing malaise that is eating into the very vitals of international cricket. But when it comes to the involvement of players, the cricket authorities cannot shirk their responsibilities. If they do not have the resources and the wherewithal to follow leads of suspicion, they must seek the help of the investigating agencies.

Whether the Chandrachud inquiry commission report is made public or not, one need not lay much store by it, because there is hardly anything in it to provoke further investigation.

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