'Steps afoot to make 'fixing' a criminal offence'

Published: Monday, January 15, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi: Match-fixing will be a criminal offence under a proposal initiated by the Union Sports ministry in the wake of the recent scandal that has rocked Indian cricket. "My ministry has already initiated a proposal to make match-fixing an offence and this has already been sent to the Law ministry," Sports minister Uma Bharti said on Saturday. On the withdrawal of Arjuna Awards presented to three banned players - Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar - she said though they did not personally appear before the panel, they all have sent their replies. "While Jadeja sought a week's time, Azharuddin said that he was considering approaching the court to appeal against the ban order," Ms Bharti said adding the ministry was examining the replies and a decision regarding the course of action to be adopted against them would be decided by Tuesday. Referring to the present speculation among the legal fraternity that match-fixing fell under the provision of gambling or cheating, Ms Bharti said "match-fixing is not an ordinary offence to be equated with cheating or gambling. Through this, the country's prestige is being put at stake for a few bucks." The response from the Law ministry was awaited, she said. Law-makers had not comprehended that a crime like match-fixing would ever take place and drew a parallel with the silence of the Constitution over the issue of whether a foreigner, who has acquired Indian citizenship, could become the Prime Minister of the country. "The makers of Constitution were all freedom fighters and never thought the country could reach such a stage that there would be a necessity of a foreigner Indian citizen to occupy the highest executive post of the country," Ms Bharti said adding similarly the framers of the Indian Penal Code never thought of making provisions to include match-fixing as an offence. On the notices issued to the players for the withdrawal of the Arjuna Awards, she said it was so decided after consulting the Law ministry and the Attorney General. "Any way, the match-fixing issue does not become a closed one after we take action against the guilty. As far as I am concerned, I would not rest till this malaise is completely rooted out from sports," the Sports minister said. "I am committed to bring reforms in the various fields associated with sports and one of the important tasks is to see that such heinous crimes do not recur," she said. "I have to take a lot of steps to see that players never indulge in match-fixing."

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