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Cricket history repeats itself — in 2000 as a tragedy; and in 2013 as a farce. The invocation of MCOCA against cricketers and bookies caught in the IPL only means that the Delhi police are grasping at straws to make a case. It would do well to remember that the Act, which came into effect in 1999, defines ‘organised crime’ as an unlawful activity carried out by ‘use of violence, threat of violence or intimidation or coercion, or other unlawful means.’ 

Needless to say, the nexus of cricketers and bookies — insidious though it undoubtedly was — can hardly be called ‘violent’. Our fallen national heroes were only too happy to stretch-and-towel-sign all the way to the bank, and the choice whether or not to do so was theirs alone. Even the charge under Section 409 of the IPC will be difficult to prove in court. The Section deals with special cases of criminal breach of trust, and carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. It rests on the notion that the IPL agreement is a tripartite agreement between the player, the team and the BCCI.

More trouble for the accused comes from MCOCA’s Section 4, which contemplates a person being in possession of property ‘he cannot satisfactorily account for’, on behalf of an ‘organised crime syndicate’. Nobody can argue that the D-Company is such an organisation, so what will be crucial for police is to prove the intricate links between cricketers, bookies, team owners, Bollywood actors, sundry middlemen and the underworld – a tall order.

The more prosaic explanation for the police’s puzzling actions is that all their efforts are pointed towards denying the accused bail for as long as possible.

What really matters is whether cops can secure a conviction 5 years hence — an unlikely feat. Sadly, the damage is already done: These men’s impressions (and lives) are ruined in the short-term memories of their once-adoring public.  

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