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May 9, 2001

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CBI becomes party to match-fixing case

Basharat Peer in New Delhi

In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation voluntarily requested the Delhi high court to make it a party to the match-fixing case.

Justice Vijender Jain, who heard the application filed by CBI counsel Maninder Singh, has passed an order admitting the CBI as a party to the ongoing case filed by Ajay Jadeja.

Jadeja's lawyer, Vineet Malhotra, was given the opportunity to file a counter application arguing why the CBI should not be admitted as a party to the case, but chose not to do so.

The move assumes enormous significance in context of the case as it has developed so far. Both Jadeja, and former skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, who is fighting a separate case, have chosen to leave the CBI out of it, and name the BCCI, and individual office-bearers thereof, as main respondents.

What this implies is that the case, as fought, is not about the validity of the CBI's probe and its findings, but rather addresses merely the question of whether the BCCI has the right to ban players.

With the CBI now entering the case as one of the respondents, the broader question -- of whether the agency's report is correct, and whether the players did in fact fix matches -- takes centre-stage.

"The players have been making all kinds of allegations," said CBI counsel Maninder Singh. "They have said we are not empowered to conduct the probe, that our report was not filed as per rules, that they have not been given a chance to cross-examine us, and so on. So now, the CBI has voluntarily made itself a party to the case, so that we can defend our report."

Malhotra, for his part, said he was happy the CBI has become party to the case. "Earlier, we were condemned without being given an opportunity to examine the case and the witnesses, now we have that chance," Jadeja's advocate argued.

The CBI counsel for his part pointed out that Jadeja could easily have named the CBI as one of the respondents right at the outset, and wondered why he did not chose to do so.

With this, all the preliminary formalities have been completed. The government of India, the BCCI, the various board officials who have been individually named, and the CBI have all filed the required documents in court.

With the preliminary paperwork now out of the way, the court will get down to hearing the case proper. The judge has set July 11 as the date for the final hearing.

Jadeja , who was present in the court, seemed quite composed. Asked for comment, he remarked, merely, "It is in court, I don't know what to say, so let me be."

Match-fixing scandal: The complete coverage