‘Bookie’ Sanjeev Chawla throws a googly, high court sends him to Tihar
Sanjeev Chawla pointed to three letters of assurance sent by the government to London that sought his extradition on grounds that he had to face trial for the match-fixing scandal of 2000.Updated: Feb 14, 2020 22:53 IST
Just a day after a local court gave Delhi Police 12 days to question alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla, the Delhi High Court on Friday told the police to send Chawla to Tihar prison right away till it decides on his petition that claimed the police were not entitled to interrogate him.
The high court’s interim verdict - it shall resume the hearing on Wednesday next - came on Sanjeev Chawla’s plea that pointed to three letters of assurance sent by the government to London that sought his extradition on grounds that he had to face trial for the match-fixing scandal of 2000. He also pointed out that the government had clearly told the UK court that he would be housed in Tihar jail.
Justice Anu Malhotra did not deliver a verdict on Sanjeev Chawla. But since the government sought time to get back with its stand, Justice Malhotra directed that Chawla should be “lodged at the Tihar Jail, Delhi in terms of the said Letters of Assurances of the Ministry of Home Affairs referred to hereinabove till further directions of this Court”.
Chawla’s petition, if it is successful, would block any attempt by the Delhi Police to get him to reveal names of his alleged accomplices in Dubai during the match-fixing scandal that changed cricket forever.
Chawla is one of the central figures in the scandal that the police stumbled across when it was investigating extortion calls from a phone number registered in Dubai. Chawla, according to the police, had been in touch with this phone number and was placed under surveillance as well. It was during this probe that the cops allege, they came across the conspiracy between Chawla and the South Africa team captain Hansie Cronje, for one, to fix matches in South Africa’s tour of India in 2000.
Chawla was extradited to India on Thursday after unsuccessfully fighting the effort for four years.
The extradition is counted as a huge achievement, particularly because this was the first high-profile extradition from the UK under a 1992 treaty signed by the two countries.
Senior lawyer Vikas Pahwa, who appeared for Chawla, told the high court that the extradition was done only when the investigation is complete, the charge sheet was filed and the court concerned took cognizance of the charges.
Reading out the communication (letters of assurances) sent by the Indian government requesting extradition says that the government had given undertakings that he would face trial in a court in India. Pahwa also underlined that Indian authorities had specifically mentioned that Chawla would be kept in Tihar jail and had even mentioned the ward number of the central prison where he would be lodged.
“The FIR was registered in 2000 and the charge sheet was filed in 2013. The investigation is complete and hence he cannot be kept in police custody. The government of India has violated its own undertakings given to the British government seeking extradition,” Pahwa submitted.
At one point, Justice Malhotra pointed out that Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland scandal, was taken into CBI custody even though he was also extradited. The judge asked Pahwa what made Sanjeev Chawla’s case any different. Pahwa responded that the fundamental difference between the two cases was that in Michel’s case, the investigators had not filed the charge sheet when he was brought to India.