The Men in Black support the Men in Blue

We all recognise that cricket is like a religion in India and courts are not alien to this sentiment. In fact, cricket finds a mention in several court judgments.
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co - Aashish Gupta, Aditya Mukherjee
Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co - Aashish Gupta, Aditya Mukherjee

The ICC T20 World Cup 2024 has commenced on June 2, 2024. Interestingly, the schedule coincides with the summer holidays of the Delhi High Court, which commenced on June 1, 2024 and ends on June 30, 2024. The Supreme Court is already in the midst of its summer break. This makes for a great time for the Bar and Bench to closely follow and support their stars in achieving glory for their country.

This coincidental overlap led us to examine the influence of cricket on Indian courts. We have examined this solely on the basis of reported judgments of courts in India. To present the true flavour of the judgments, we are reproducing extracts from certain judgments.

To “open our innings”, we all recognise that cricket is like a religion in India and courts are not alien to this sentiment. In fact, on occasion, courts have taken judicial notice of the significant role cricket plays in India. This has been “recorded” in multiple judgments, some of which are extracted below:

Ø  “21. Cricket is associated with emotions of masses. It is not only enjoyed by all kinds of people but also we see people praying for their favourite respective team to win every ball.

22. In India, cricket is a sport of great importance, emotions and joy. Every match is a die for match for all Indians. Cricket definitely needs skill that is accomplished by mere practice and experience. People who are fond of Cricket think it is the best sport to play and watch, they often point out the difference in atmosphere and attitude between players and spectators of cricket than of other sports such as football or rugby. Here, when we speak of cricket in India, Tendulkar's contribution to cricket is worth the mention.

Ø  “…We can take judicial notice of the fact that cricket matches, which are held and organised by the Association has wider repercussions on the emotions of the citizens of the nation. Therefore, public watch these matches with great involvement and results are seen as advancing or defeating the national interest in the field of sport.

Not only have courts shared their ‘commentary’ on the game of cricket, but there have been instances where courts have written judgments in the form of ‘commentaries’. The following judgment had been meticulously noted in our “record books” just for a day like this, when we could share it:

Ø  “1. This petition is about cricket. Counsel or not counsel the Court has heard arguments simultaneously from three Advocates on both sides and all have bowled in the same over and each seems to be throwing a body-line. All counsel, and the parties they represent, would like to run away with the 'ashes'. And yet they are putting the two Judges, of this division, to umpire outside the field as a third eye. Apparently, between the other umpires, big names in the Cricket Control Board of India, the argument ran like no-balls and wide-balls. Before the Court it is a heard I win, tail you lose situation. Sabre rattling counsel fling at each other without ball and bat but their verbal volleys seem like fours and sixes, except there are no boundaries in this Court. The argument match is very unconventional and the style of pleading was not confined within the boundaries of traditional submissions. It is more a frenzy amongst onlookers at the stadium stands.

2. The two counsel for the petitioners, one appears formally and the other informally vehemently submit that the Bihar Cricket Association has been sent for a six outside the stadium by the Cricket Control Board of India. They submit that the rules of the game have been changed during the game and the Bihar Cricket Association has been deleted and would not even have the status of a full member on the Board which it has had since 1935.

3. Before this Court the match apparently has been played from Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, via Moinul Haque Stadium. Patna to Keenam Stadium, Jamshedpur, with a one day match pace. A lot of excitement has been displayed between playing counsel and the Bar gallery. The pace of arguments was fast and all simultaneous. Something like the theme in the Sir Henry Newbolt's poem: 'A bumping pitch and a blinding light one to make and the last man in'.

4. This cricket match before the Court, with the embroiled counsel is on the wrong playing field. All the real players are not being named by the proxy players. This is big game outside the game and it would be best not to ask counsel to bilge out the names of the players.

5. Ultimately, with arguments exhausted counsel were looking for a decision from the Court as an umpire. The Court told the trio counsel that at the High Court they did not connect the ball while swinging the bat wildly and lastly and the ball has been caught behind the stumps and returned to the bowler to bowl again. But, it will have to be another pitch at another field. While leaving the Bar of the Court, all counsel acknowledged that a two set inning match is already being played at the District Court, Patna. On that this Court asked them to take their stumps and pitch it elsewhere.

7. The playing field of the registered society of the Board of Cricket Control of India is at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, Thus, if this match is to continue in its variations it will have to be at a Civil Court of appropriate jurisdiction,

8. …It is a writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, not a cricket match.

9. This petition is misconceived.

10. Dismissed.

Aside from complete judgments being influenced by cricket, there have been multiple decisions where courts have used cricket and its terminology in their judgments. In fact, courts have also defined their own role in judicial proceedings with the help of the role of an umpire in the game of cricket. Some of these judgments in our “line-up” are as under:

Role of an Appellate Court

Ø  “…Therefore, in every case what we have to look for is which body or person has been entrusted by the Legislature with the privilege of saying the final word. It is like an umpire at a cricket match. What he says goes. His word is law within the ambits of his authority: not because he is infallible, nor because he is necessarily right. But because somebody must decide or else the game cannot go on. If there is an appeal to the Board of Control (if there is such an authority and such an appeal) it cannot decide whether the umpire was right or wrong. All it can enquire into is whether the man who gave the decision was the umpire or whether he was some stranger or fieldsman masquerading as an umpire in a white coat. And if he was the umpire, was his decision according to the laws of cricket? That is to say, was the batsman given out because he was in the opinion of the umpire bowled, or caught or stumped or run out, or just because the umpire did not like the colour of his hair or a certain wild look in his eyes.”

Role of a Trial Court Judge

Ø  "Again these powers are wide powers with the trial Judge, since the entire exercise in a trial is the pursuit of truth and justice and all the efforts of the Court are geared towards reaching a just decision, the law empowers the trial judge to ask any question to the witness in order to get to the truth of the matter. The Court cannot be a silent spectator like an Umpire in Cricket Match, who is assigned the task of raising his finger and pointing to the faults in the game. A judge is an active participant in a trial proceeding!”

Role of an Arbitrator

Ø  “However, while arriving at such a decision, the arbitrator is not permitted to travel beyond the four-corners of the contract. An Arbitrator is akin to an umpire in the game of cricket which is equally bound by the rules of the game as is applicable to the players and he cannot do justice to the losing team, signal 'out' when the batter has clearly hit the ball beyond the boundary limit of the ground; going against the game itself”.

Courts do not stop even there! They go onto examine and explaining the most complex legal issues with simple cricket analogies. Some of these observations which “caught” our interest are set out below:

Ø  “... Where is the man who has made no mistake in his lifetime? Even Don Bradman must have been bowled for a duck once in his cricketing career…?

Ø  “…After getting them [Defendant] set ex parte, the plaintiffs should go to the witness box, lead evidence and earn a decree. Instead of doing that, the plaintiffs attempted to bowl a yorker which the Court below correctly declared as a 'no ball.'

Ø  “Mr. Tralshawala had submitted on behalf of the department that both the M.P. Act and the Maharashtra Act are similar…Mr. Dastur pertinently (and quite interestingly) drew the analogy of the two leading batsmen in the world today. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara and pointed out that though there may be very many similarities between the two in the sense that they play all the shots in the game, are immensely talented, may be using the same brand and type of cricketing gear and the like, yet essentially their style of play is quite different from one another, the most striking difference being that the former is a right-hander and the latter is a left-hander. We get the point which Mr. Dastur wants to make."

Ø  “…In fact, the whole proceedings were "coram non judice," and were aptly compared in the argument before me to a "no ball" at cricket, which the batsman is entitled to hit as hard as he can and knock as many runs off as possible: but if he misses it, and it hits his middle stump, he is still entitled to insist that it is a "no ball" and that he is not out...

Ø  “...It is all too apparent that upon a change of power in the State in 2021, the identities of the accused and the prosecution were obliterated as all the players in the game suddenly found themselves belonging to the same team. Realizing this, the umpire i.e., the Special Court appears to have decided that the wisest course open to it was to get itself out hit wicket..."

Ø  “A review petition is not a ground for the applicant to put forth new arguments but rather the Court while exercising its review jurisdiction acts as a third umpire and it can only look into whether or not there has been an apparent error on the face of record...

Interestingly, Courts even use interesting cricket analogies while rejecting the arguments advanced by counsel or to comment upon the conduct of the parties. Some of these are being reproduced below:

Ø  “In the present case, the Municipality at every given time had the opportunity to place the facts correctly but avoided it. When the Municipality gets caught behind the slips, now it wants to come out with a defence that the respondent, who had otherwise been recruited initially as a daily wager had forged qualification.

Ø  “The prolix plaint, competing with Sachin Tendulkar to score a century, consisting of 116 paragraphs, has rightly met its waterloo, when the learned Single Judge held that the plaint discloses no cause of action having accrued at Delhi and thus the Delhi High Court has no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the plaint…

The “close of play” could not be called without once again referencing the god of cricket.

Ø  “One can easily describe and discuss the aesthetic pleasure of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat on the field. Every single individual watching any sport gets associated with it with emotions and with every single four, six, a goal, a foul can pump everyone's heart out. To take cricket as an example, when we are watching a match and Sachin Tendulkar turn his wrists at the very last moment, flicking the blade of the bat towards the onside just as the ball arrives under his eyes, we experience the beauty of his art or skill for that matter: not just poise and grace but also concision and completeness. If we can say within its own terms, it cannot be improved upon.

We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we did putting it together.

To the men in blue – the Bar and the Bench are with you!

About the authors: Aashish Gupta and Aditya Mukherjee, Partners at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

If you would like your Deals, Columns, Press Releases to be published on Bar & Bench, please fill in the form available here.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news