Let us not damn the tape

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Monday, May 29, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The nearly 40 hours of off-guard video recording, through concealed cameras, undertaken by Manoj Prabhakar, with the help of a journalist is being variously described as "illegal", "unethical" and "justifiable".

The attention of most people, however, is focussed more on the contents of the edited version titled "The Fallen Heroes - A Nation Betrayed" than on the manner of its creation.

The law of the land considers third degree to be illegal, but is there a police force anywhere that does not have recourse to it, to extract confessions and arrive at the truth? When a prosecution is launched, the ethics of the investigation pale into insignificance.

Then we have the many detective firms and private investigating agencies, which resort to no-holds-barred snooping activities. There is no law that defines what is legal or illegal in this regard. The end matters more than the means.

As such, we should all raise our questions further on what the desperate former all-rounder has done and not on how he has done it.

At the outset, one has to sift the bran from the gist so that we can at once dismiss the misconception that every single person appearing in the video recording is in someway involved in the betting and match-fixing controversy.

Those, who are identified as not being involved, can, however, be greatly helpful, of which there can be no doubt. Their candid statements are highly revealing. But, a lot of importance will be attached to these persons sticking to those remarks.

Even if they hold a grudge against Manoj Prabhakar, one can see that, in most cases, they were indeed making statements or answering questions put forth by either Prabhakar or the journalist. They knew what they were saying and to who they were speaking.

Whether the persons were aware, at that stage, that their remarks were being recorded, cannot dilute the truth as they had perceived it when they spoke off-guard. Neither of the two was snooping.

The only point that will be in question, when the investigating agencies start giving weightage to the remarks of several past players and officials, some even outside the game of cricket, will be the context in which they were made.

But the accusation of doctoring of the tapes, as the BCCI secretary, Jaywant Lele, brought about to bear on his reaction to the episode, is too far-fetched. This man is always on the defensive and there are occasions, when he does not even know what he says.

Lele's recording of conversation with Prabhakar is one of the longest. The locale is very familiar, which is his house, with his pet swinging sofa on which he normally sits when he receives visitors, as this writer knows from his several visits.

The remarks of the rest of the people, including the former Assistant Police Commissioner of Mumbai, Rakesh Maria, are quite revealing, so are the intimate conversations between Prabhakar and some of his former colleagues, including Navjot Singh Siddhu.

Instead of getting bogged down in legal technicalities, the elaborate video-recording and the full transcript that is being handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation must be made full use of.

If this solid material, irrespective of how it has been obtained, cannot help to get to the bottom of the truth and to pin down those guilty of being involved in the betting and match-fixing controversy, then nothing else ever can.

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