Justice Mudgal and his long tryst with cricket

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SummaryHas crime stopped completely because we have laws to punish criminals?

The former Punjab and Haryana High Court chief justice Mukul Mudgal, who will head the Supreme Court approved three-member panel to inquire into the allegations of betting and spot-fixing, is an outspoken man who hasn’t been afraid of challenging the authority of the all-powerful BCCI.

Justice Mudgal has been the brain behind the National Sports Development Bill that proposes to bring all sports federations, including the BCCI, under the purview of the Right to Information Act. He was also the adviser to the International Cricket Council’s independent governance review headed by Lord Woolf, the former chief justice of England. In its report, the panel recommended curtailing the influencing of bigger and richer boards like India and empowering smaller nations.

Interestingly, Mudgal has advocated legalising sports betting in the country and filed a PIL against match-fixing in cricket around two decades ago.

Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “I have been saying that the government must seriously consider legalising sports betting. Since it is a state subject, the Centre can suggest to state governments to come up with laws to allow betting in select sports. My rationale behind such a demand is based on simple logic. Illegal betting is happening on a huge scale even now. Why not legalise it so that the government earns a lot of revenue from it, while at the same time checking illegal betting?”

A study by industry body FICCI had estimated that the illegal betting market in India is a whopping Rs 3 lakh crore. The study also said that in case betting is leglised, the the government could earn at least Rs 12,000 crore in tax revenue per annum.

He was asked if legalising betting would also deal with the problem of match fixing and spot fixing, something that came to light in the last Indian Premier League.

Pro legal betting

“Has crime stopped completely because we have laws to punish criminals? While match-fixing may still take place if betting is legalised, it will certainly be much less. There could be a government-appointed regulator to regulate betting and also look to instances of alleged match fixing,” Justice Mudgal said.

Since retiring a few years ago, Justice Mudgal has been head of many government-appointed committees that have probed, among other things, allegations that Walmart paid lobbyists to prepare the ground for a smoother entry into the India market.

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