In a recent news legal panels in India again sought for cricket betting to be legalized. According to intelligence agencies the betting market in India is worth Rs 3,00,000 crore. It is not new for this issue to be taken up as developments have been taking place for this in the country since 2013 till date and has an impressive array of supporters. Considered by the business and commerce industry to be a valid one, legal authorities of this country have also been batting for legalization of cricket betting through legislation for the past several years.
The Law Commission of India is studying relevant British laws to determine whether betting on cricket can be legalized in India, as is the case in the United Kingdom.The Law Commission of India on May 30, 2017 released an appeal inviting suggestions and opinions from a cross-section of people and stakeholders about legalizing betting. The Commission in its appeal said that it has been mulling over this idea for quite some time now. Discussions were initiated with some of the stakeholders and the Commission is working towards a possible report.
Justice RM Lodha, former Chief Justice of India, also advocated legalizing cricket betting in India. According to him “Involvement of terrorist elements in betting is causing a serious threat to national security.” Mr Nilay Dutta, senior advocate and member of the Justice Mudgal Committee, which has been set up to probe the IPL match-fixing scam, added his opinion to the report of the committee by stating that, “Influx of Hawala money and involvement of terrorist elements in betting and fixing of sports is causing a serious threat to national security.”
Therefore in view of the national interest involved, it would be necessary to explore the options available to Parliament and the Legislatures of various states to adopt the procedure stipulated in Article 252 of the Constitution of India.
Betting and gambling being a state subject in the 7th schedule of the Constitution of India, there was no consolidated uniform law on this applicable to the entire country. The Justice R M Lodha Committee, which was constituted by the Supreme Court to reform Indian Cricket, recommended that “to curb corruption in cricket, betting in cricket should be legalized. Except players and officials, all other people should be allowed to place their bets on registered websites.”
According to news sources the matter was taken up for examination after the Supreme Court made a reference to this effect last July, while it was hearing the Justice RM Lodha committee report on cleaning up Indian cricket. A bench headed by then Chief Justice TS Thakur had said: “The recommendation made by the committee that betting should be legalized involves the enactment of a law, which is a matter that may be examined by the law commission and the government for such action as may be consider necessary in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
The committees and their views
Justice Mudgal and Justice Lodha Committees have made a distinction between betting and fixing. The Supreme Court in BCCI versus State of Bihar case referred to the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee where it stated “the recommendation made by the Committee that betting should be legalized by law, involves the enactment of a law which is a matter that may be examined by the Law Commission.”
The Apex Court noted that the Committee has taken the view that betting by administrators, players, match officials, team officials, owners, etc., should continue to be an offence under the BCCI and IPL rules and regulations.
Based on these observations, the Law Commission has made an appeal inviting views and suggestions for legalizing betting in India and to recommend the Union of India to bring out appropriate legislation which would be enforceable in the entire country.
A paper published by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) for its conference titled ‘Regulating Sports Betting in India: A Vice To Be Tamed’ showed that an overwhelming 74 per cent of respondents believed that legalizing sports betting would help curb match-fixing.
The Enforcement Directorate in May 2015, while busting an international cricket racket in Ahmedabad, claimed the arrested bookies had transferred about `300 crore through the hawala (illegal) channel to UK-based betting company Betfair to obtain a master password to place bets online and that was sold to many people in India. Experts are of the opinion that legalizing betting could provide an opportunity to casual sports bettors. The legal platform makes it easy for monitoring and enforcing authorities.
Gambling is currently curbed or regulated under a bouquet of state laws, and its legalization across the country would require a central legislation. Sources said the commission will seek responses from stakeholders and the public at large to get their views on the subject.
The commission panel was also studying British laws, and examining the possible impact of allowing betting in sports and society as a whole. The commission is also examining the feasibility of bringing the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) under the Right to Information Act. However, there is no time frame or deadline for submitting the report. The commission’s term ends in August 2018. Also according to experts legalizing betting would work only when it is supported by required enabling mechanisms like the sports fraud legislation, strong anti-corruption units in sports bodies, cooperation for states.