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Sanjeev Chawla, caught & bowled by India

Prasun Sonwalkar
Filed on May 8, 2021

Like other cases, Chawla’s also went through several twists and turns in the judicial process, but reached a dead-end when the European Court of Human Rights — the last recourse — also refused to intervene in his extradition.


In cricketing terms, the scoreboard may well read: Sanjeev Chawla, caught and bowled India 0. Exactly 20 years after allegedly being a conduit between bookmakers who wanted to fix the outcome of cricket matches during South Africa’s tour of India in 2000, Chawla was on a flight to New Delhi, escorted by a team of the Delhi police, making him the first person since the 1992 UK-India treaty to be successfully extradited to India following a prolonged judicial process in the UK.

Like other cases, Chawla’s also went through several twists and turns in the judicial process, but reached a dead-end when the European Court of Human Rights — the last recourse — also refused to intervene in his extradition when he lost appeal in the UK high court. He has been lodged in Tihar Jail, and faces charges of criminal conduct and plans to fix cricket matches discovered when the Delhi Police undertook telephone tapping in an unrelated investigation.

India sought assistance from South African authorities between 2004 and 2008, when voice analysis was also undertaken, and a final report into the investigation was submitted to the prosecution authorities in India in 2013. Delhi-born Chawla moved to the UK in 1996.

India submitted the extradition request on February 1, 2016, and it was certified by the Home secretary March 11, 2016. His case was initially heard by the Westminster Magistrates Court and later by the high court.

The quality of paperwork or evidence submitted by India in extradition cases has often been questioned in British courts, but the investigation in the Sanjeev Chawla case came in for rare praise. Judge Rebecca Crane of the magistrates court initially refused India’s request to extradite him on human rights grounds, ruling: “The combination of evidence provided by the [applicant] provides strong grounds for believing that the [applicant] would be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the Tihar prison complex, due to the overcrowding, lack of medical provision, risk of being subjected to torture and violence either from other inmates or prison staff...”

Crane, however, lauded the Delhi Police’s investigation and ruled that Chawla indeed had a prima facie case to answer, ruling: “I am satisfied that there is a prima facie case… There is clear evidence sufficient to make a case requiring an answer that the RP (requested person: Chawla) acted with others to fix the outcome of cricket matches by providing money to members of the South African cricket team.”

The affidavit included evidence of Chawla “shadowing” South Africa captain Hansie Cronje by staying in the same hotels during the tour; phone records between the two discussing match-fixing; phone records of Chawla’s frequent contact with conspirators/co-accused, particularly around match times. It also included testimony of co-conspirators Rajesh Kalra, Krishan Kumar and Sunil Dara, which names Chawla and details his involvement in match-fixing, Crane’s 17-page judgement summarising the evidence noted.

Crane had rejected the sovereign assurance submitted by the Union home ministry about conditions in the Tihar Jail, but the high court accepted the third such assurance containing details about the cell and facilities to be provided to Chawla. The assurance bound Indian authorities to provide conditions complying with human rights law. He was to be the sole occupant in one of the Tihar cells identified: cells 1 or 2 of Ward 9 in Central Jail 1, and cells 6 or 7 of Ward 4 in Jail 3. The cell is located in a ward that is not a high security ward, with inmates who had not violated any prison rules and had satisfactory conduct. The assurance included photos and dimensions of the cell and detailed measures to ensure Chawla’s safety from violence.

Chawla’s appeal in the high court was rejected by Justice Leggatt and Justice Dingemans, clearing the way for his extradition: “In these circumstances, having regard to all of the information available to this Court about Tihar prisons, the terms of the third assurance (which was not before the District Judge) are sufficient to show that there will be no real risk that Mr Chawla will be subjected to impermissible treatment in Tihar prisons.”

(Prasun Sonwalkar is a London-based journalist)





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