Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar is a distinguished officer, having cracked some high profile cases in his long career, including the 2000 match fixing scandal. The 1993 Bombay blasts case was handed over to the CBI where Mr. Kumar arrested many and the case ended in their conviction. He had also cracked the serial train blast cases that took place on the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition and made the first arrest in the Sardar Beant Singh assassination case. A cricket lover, he spoke to Vijay Lokapally of The Hindu on Delhi Police’s success in exposing the spot-fixing scam in the Indian Premier League.
How do you look at the spot-fixing episode as a cricket lover?
It’s distressing, disappointing. One feels cheated. Any cricket fan, in India particularly, who idolizes these cricketers, will feel betrayed. I would say this is breach of trust by cricketers who are worshipped like gods. It’s really a big let down. I have stopped watching the IPL.
Was it necessary for the players to be covered in black hoods when taken to the police station?
It was their choice. Even when going to the court in the jail van they were hiding under the seats. We didn’t tell them to hide under the seats. They did it out of shame. It saddened me. They are young, age of my children. To get trapped like this, to ruin your entire career, bring bad name to yourself and your family. I feel sad for them.
The cricket authorities say they are handicapped, can’t play the role of police. Would you agree with that?
Partly yes. We can do it because we have the authority to monitor their phones, the authority to arrest, the authority to call them for questioning. They don’t have this authority. Part of what they are saying is true.
How do you stop this menace? What deterrence can there be?
I think use of cell phones should be banned because most of the transactions take place through cell phones in the nick of time.
Instructions are given at the last minute. There should be control on the use of cell phones. When the players are staying in a hotel, there should be an understanding that outsiders would not be allowed to meet them. They should give a list in advance of people who are permitted to meet them, like their own family members. Women who are not on that list should not be allowed to meet them. I am sorry I am speaking like a jailor but given the state of affairs these are some of the caustic measures that need to be taken.
What role can the police play? Are you also handicapped?
We can’t take anyone’s phone under observation. For example, the telephone numbers of players under observation. The law does not permit it. This happened because of a series of chance discovery. We were observing some people from counter-terror point of view. We heard them talking about cricket and then we realised they were bookies. To establish their identity was a challenge. It is very easy to say you know Gopal is speaking but who is this Gopal. To locate such person is not easy because they use very funny assumed names. This was the most difficult part to make sure what they look like.
How was the final swoop down planned?
The final swoop down came on the 15th (May) because we allowed all the three (cricketers) who had compromised to commit the mistakes and promise to deliver to the bookies on some consideration. Ankeet Chavan was given a chance. We already had evidence against (Ajit) Chandila and Sreesanth. Once we got evidence against Ankeet, I gave them the go ahead for the swoop down which was in different parts of the country. Our teams were camping and they knew where the bookies were, they knew what they looked like. It was lot of leg work.