New Delhi: The Patiala House Court on Saturday acquitted the trio of Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing case.
Besides the 16 arrested, 20 others including the three Rajasthan Royals were also discharged in the case. The players were granted bail due to lack of evidence.
Reports suggest that there were loud cheers of joy from the accused and their supporters inside the court.
They had banned from all forms of cricket by the BCCI since allegations of their involvement in IPL 2013 first emerged.
Sreesanth, who played 27 Tests for India, was alleged to have been paid tens of thousands of dollars after agreeing to deliberately bowl badly in an IPL match.
Delhi police also alleged at the time of their arrest that his teammates agreed to similar deals in two other IPL matches.
The court, which dropped all charges against 36 accused, held that the Special Cell of Delhi Police has been unable to establish any "nexus" or link between accused and crime syndicate allegedly run by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his close aid Chhota Shakeel who have been declared as proclaimed offenders in the case along with one Sandeep.
Three other accused -- Javed Chutani, Salman and Ehteysham -- were Pakistani nationals and never came in the hands of the police.
In his 175-page order, Additional Sessions Judge Neena Bansal Krishna said "...It can be concluded that even if entire evidence of prosecution is accepted, then too it is not established that there exists a core crime syndicate of Dawood-Chhota Shakeel who have been indulging in the organized offence of betting and match fixing and also dealing with money so generated through hawala."
Besides three cricketers who were the part of IPL team Rajasthan Royals and banned for life for their alleged involvement in crime, several bookies among 36 were named in the 6000-page chargesheet in which police had claimed to have unearthed sufficient evidence to prosecute them for the offence punishable under section 120 B (conspiracy) read with 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating) of IPC and under the provisions the stringent MCOCA.
However, the judge said, "in the given situation, bound as this court is with the law of the land, it is contrained to conclude that no prima facie case under MCOCA or any other Penal statute is disclosed against any of the accused persons, who are all entitled to be discharged."
"The prosecution has not been able to establish that there is any continuing unlawful activity of crime syndicate as it has not been able to meet the requirement of there being more than one FIR in preceding 10 years against the syndicate," the court said.
Further, it said "no nexus or link between various accused" with Dawood's alleged Pakistan-based aide Dr Javed Chutani "as part of organized group has been established."
"Also, the offence in relation to which MCOCA is sought to be invoked, pertains to betting and match fixing, which as discussed above does not fit in any Penal statute. All the necessary ingredients to establish a prima facie case under the provisions of MCOCA is not made out," the court said.
Castigating Delhi Police for involing MCOCA, the court said, "the best case could have been under Public Gambling Act,
but that also is not prima facie established from the evidence placed on record by the prosecution."
"The offence of cheating is also not made out prima facie, even if the entire evidence of prosecution is admitted without formal proof," the court added.
(With PTI inputs)