CBI leads corruption fight

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The Independent Online

The Central Bureau of Investigation, author of the 160-page report on match-fixing in cricket, is the principle engine of state justice in India, and contrary to what one might expect of such bodies in the developing world, it is an impressively energetic organisation.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, author of the 160-page report on match-fixing in cricket, is the principle engine of state justice in India, and contrary to what one might expect of such bodies in the developing world, it is an impressively energetic organisation.

It is not obviously in thrall to particular constituencies, and it does not flinch from taking on the great and powerful. In the past few weeks it has secured the first ever conviction of a former Indian prime minister - Narasimha Rao - for giving bribes, after an epic court case; it has taken the first steps towards prosecuting the Hinduja brothers in the long-running Bofors arms case; and in raids on homes and officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi it has recovered tens of millions of rupees in what it claims is plundered money.

Yet as Alec Stewart and Brian Lara may ruefully be reflecting, the CBI functions in a churning and anarchic society where justice is either rough and ready or endlessly deferred; where witnesses are routinely bribed to shut up by wealthy accused; where an individual's rights cannot be taken for granted but must be vigorously asserted.

The CBI is buffeted by the demands of its paymasters, the government, and often taunted by the hostile chanting of the media.

Under these pressures it has produced a report on match-fixing that is highly anomalous in British terms - amounting to the public character assassination of a number of high-profile sporting figures who have essentially been tried in absentia. Yet the response to the report in India has largely been one of approval and endorsement.

The CBI was working in a legal twilight zone: it was never likely that it could unearth the sort of solid evidence of match-rigging that would bring convictions in court.

But cricket plays as big a part in India's national life as football does in Britain's. Since the revelations of corruption began spilling out more than two years ago, the realisation has grown that there is a cancer at the heart of the Indian game.

The CBI may not have the legal wherewithal to cut the cancer out; the Board of Control for Cricket in India, beset by different rumours of scandal, appears not to have the will to do so. In remorselessly exposing the extent of the malignancy, the CBI is felt to have done India a big favour. It has also thrown the gauntlet down to the BCCI.

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