The Delhi High Court on 19 February reserved its orders on a plea filed by the alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla, who challenged a lower court’s order remanding him in police custody.
The bench headed by Justice Anu Malhotra was informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs that for the purpose of a fair trial, Chawla, who has been facing the charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code, has to be confronted with the evidence gathered against him to ‘unearth’ the conspiracy and identify the other persons involved.
Chawla, a key accused in one of the cricket’s biggest match-fixing scandals, was alleged to have played a central role in conspiring with late South African captain, Hansie Cronje to fix the South African tour of India in February-March 2000. He was extradited from the UK, last week, after the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid passed an order to this effect. Later, he was sent to police custody by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sudhir Kumar Sirohi. On February 14, he got interim relief from custodial interrogation when the high court had sent him to Tihar Jail till further orders.
Subsequently, Chawla through his counsel Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa approached the High Court claiming that his police custody was wholly illegal and unlawful. Through his counsel, he challenged the custodial remand on the grounds that it was against the extradition treaty signed between the United Kingdom and India.
However, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs has informed the court during the hearing that “We will abide by the assurances given by the Indian government to the UK authorities.” He further added that neither the MHA nor the Delhi Police gave any such assurance to the UK authorities that no further investigation will be carried out in the case.
Meanwhile, Chawla’s counsel argued that “The probe agency has already investigated the offense of conspiracy against Chawla. He is called to India only to face trial. The authorities have violated their undertaking given to the UK. The charge sheet says the investigation is complete. There is no scope of a probe against him.”
“The authorities are trying to violate their solemn assurance, given to the foreign court” added Chawla’s counsel.
On the other hand, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate stated that “We have got him extradited to complete the investigation and proceed with the trial in the case. The purpose of assurances was to avoid any double jeopardy and that he should not be made to face trial in any other offenses except the ones for which his extradition was done.”
The decision for the plea of Chawla challenging his custodial remand will be pronounced by Justice Anu Malhotra on 20 February.