New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday upheld a trial court’s decision to grant bail to Sanjeev Chawla, an alleged bookie and key accused in one of the cricket’s biggest match-fixing scandals that involved former South African captain Hansie Cronje.
Justice Asha Menon, who pronounced the order through video conferencing, rejected the Delhi Police plea challenging the bail.
Chawla, who was extradited from London in February, was granted bail by the trial court here on April 30 on furnishing of a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh and two sureties of the like amount.
He had sought bail saying that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a risk of getting infected with the virus in jail where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
Challenging the trial court’s bail order, the police sought cancellation of his bail on the ground that Chawla is a British national and it took 20 years to bring him back to India and there is a likelihood of him fleeing from justice.
The police, represented by ASG Sanjay Jain and additional public prosecutor Kewal Singh Ahuja, said the guidelines with respect to COVID-19 and release of undertrial prisoners are not applicable to Chawla in light of his alleged conduit role in the match-fixing.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Chawla, opposed the police’s plea saying his client never applied for bail in 60 days which showed he was cooperating with the prosecuting agency.
He said the trial was pending for seven years, the charges have not been framed and it will take considerable time to complete the trial.
He said the plea to cancel the bail was not maintainable and while the Supreme Court and high court are de-congesting jails to contain the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus, the police is keeping the accused in prison.
The trial court, while granting bail to Chawla, said the accused was in custody for the last 76 days and the probe was already complete in the case.
It, however, directed him to give his voice sample and handwriting specimen to the investigating officer in the case.
According to the police, Chawla was allegedly involved in fixing of five matches.
Cronje, who died in a plane crash in 2002, was also involved, police had told the court.
Chawla was alleged to have played a central role in conspiring with Cronje to fix a South African tour to India in February-March, 2000.
The British court documents say that Chawla is a Delhi-born businessman who moved to the United Kingdom on a business visa in 1996 and continued to make trips to India.