A Legal Deep Dive: The Commonwealth Games Scam

Author: Piyush Kumar

Student at: Faculty of Law, Delhi University



The 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi, India, were overshadowed by a massive corruption scandal known as the CWG Scam. The initial budget for the event was estimated around ₹361 million, but ballooned to a staggering ₹70,000 crore (approximately $10 billion) by the time the games commenced. This dramatic increase sparked suspicion, and investigations revealed a web of corrupt practices. Allegations included awarding inflated contracts to undeserving companies, poor infrastructure management resulting in unfinished projects and dirty athlete housing, and a culture of bypassing proper tender procedures. Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the organizing committee, emerged as a central figure accused of criminal conspiracy and manipulating contracts. The scam not only tarnished India’s reputation on the international stage but also highlighted serious problems with governance and accountability.


In 2010, New Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games, a 12-day international sporting event featuring athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations. The games were marred by controversy, however, as preparations were clouded by allegations of a massive scam. Over 12 billion rupees were reportedly spent on infrastructure development, including the construction of a special “Games Village” and the upgrade of 20 cities as tourist destinations. However, concerns were raised about the quality of construction and program management. Additionally, questions arose about the misuse of funds during the preparatory stage.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi were marred by chaos and disappointment. Athletes arrived to find unsanitary conditions, with unfinished construction, leaky walls, and dirty living quarters. Concerns mounted as reports emerged of last-minute issues, rising inflation, outbreaks of dengue fever, and constant construction noise. These problems, coupled with a sense of unpreparedness, led many to believe the Games were a sham that misrepresented India’s history and capabilities.

Allegations of widespread corruption soon followed. Politicians like Suresh Kalmadi, Sheila Dikshit, and Manmohan Singh, along with bureaucrats including Lalit Bhanot, TS Darbari, Sanjay Mahindroo, and others, were named as potentially involved. Businessmen like RSP Sinha, SM Talwar, NK Jain, and Jitendra Garg were also implicated.

The Games are likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Estimates suggest the event cost the government a staggering 70,000 crores, with a web of corrupt practices suspected to be at fault. Contracts were allegedly inflated, with companies offering higher prices being chosen over those with better rates, equipment, and facilities. In some cases, qualified companies with better deals were inexplicably disqualified, raising further concerns about the bidding process. Investigations revealed a pattern of favoring “dishonest companies,” as committees phrased it. Close associates of Kalmadi, like Lalit Bhanot and VK Verma, were ultimately arrested.


The CWG scam involved a web of alleged irregularities in the planning and execution of the Games. Some of the key accusations included:

  • Inflated Contracts: Contracts for various services and infrastructure projects were allegedly awarded at significantly inflated prices. A prime example was the timing, scoring, and data handling system awarded to Swiss Timing Solutions for ₹141 crore, allegedly inflated by ₹95 crore.
  • Substandard Infrastructure: Construction projects faced delays and allegations of poor quality materials. Leaky roofs, unhygienic living conditions for athletes, and a bridge collapse before the Games raised concerns.
  • Favoritism and Nepotism: Selection of companies and individuals for contracts was suspected to be based on personal connections rather than merit.
  • Embezzlement of Funds: Allegations included misappropriation of funds allocated for the Games for personal gain.


Several Indian laws were relevant to address the alleged CWG scam:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC): Sections dealing with cheating (Section 420), criminal conspiracy (Section 120B), and forgery (Section 467) were potentially applicable. These offenses carry varying degrees of punishment, including life imprisonment.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988: This Act specifically tackles corruption by public servants. Section 13(1)(d) dealing with criminal misconduct by a public servant, punishable by imprisonment up to seven years, was a key provision.
  • The Information Technology Act (ITA), 2000: Section 43 dealing with criminal misconduct by public servants using computer resources could be invoked if evidence of digital manipulation existed.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s premier agency for investigating economic offenses, took charge of the probe. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigated potential money laundering linked to the scam.


The case was investigated by the CBI, which charged former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Secretary Suresh Kalmadi, calling him the “mastermind” of the R140-crore temporal order, evaluation, and Result devices (TSR) scam.

The agency booked employment for 10 more people, including two companies that were awarded the contract — Swiss Temporary Orders Ltd and Hyderabad-based firm AKR Constructions.

The company was awarded the contract to install all the TSR devices. A CBI official in charge of the investigation said, “The company cashier has put on record that the money was received in his account and deposited as distribution payment to the workers involved in the project.

The CBI has also arrested former managing director OC Lalit Bhanot, former general manager VK Verma, OCASV joint general manager (sports) Prasad, deputy general manager (procurement) Surjit Lal, money dealer M Jayachandran and decision maker A K Reddy, head of AKR Constructions and promoter of Faridabad-based Gem International, AK Madan and Metal Arya.

All the accused have been booked under sections 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (use of document) of the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act.

The Employment Agency has declared Reddy, Arya and Madan as offenders and issued non-bailable arrest warrants against them.


The CWG scam case has been a marathon, characterized by twists and turns:

  • Charges Framed: In 2013, the CBI filed charges against Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the Organizing Committee (OC), and nine others, including former OC secretary-general Lalit Bhanot. The charges included criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, and offenses under the PCA and ITA.
  • Trial and Conviction: The trial process was lengthy, with arguments, counter-arguments, and witness testimonies. In 2018, a Delhi court convicted Kalmadi for conspiracy and causing undue benefit to a favored company. However, he was acquitted of some other charges. Other accused faced varying degrees of conviction or acquittal.
  • Appeals and Challenges: Both the convicted and the CBI challenged the verdict in higher courts. The Delhi High Court acquitted Kalmadi of some charges, but the Supreme Court upheld his conviction for conspiracy in 2020. He served a ten-month prison sentence.
  • Unfinished Business: As of June 2024, the legal saga continues. Appeals against convictions and acquittals are pending in higher courts. The focus on recovering misappropriated funds remains an unresolved issue.


The CWG scam case raises several crucial legal questions:

  • Proof of Intent: Demonstrating criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt is essential for conviction. Gathering evidence to prove deliberate inflation of contracts, for instance, can be challenging.
  • Complexities of Corporate Structures: Companies involved in the alleged irregularities may have complex ownership structures, making it difficult to pinpoint individual responsibility.
  • Lengthy Legal Process: The Indian judicial system is known for a backlog of cases. The CWG scam case exemplifies how lengthy trials can hamper swift justice and deter future offenders.
  • Witness Protection: Fear of intimidation can hinder witnesses from coming forward. Ensuring witness protection is crucial for effective prosecution.


The 2010 Commonwealth Games scam in Delhi was a wake-up call for India. Here are some key lessons learned:

  • Transparency and Oversight: Lack of clear bidding processes and public scrutiny opened doors for inflated contracts and corruption. Stronger oversight and independent audits are crucial.
  • Accountability: Leaders like Suresh Kalmadi, the organizing committee chairman, faced accusations but the legal process was lengthy. Ensuring swift consequences for wrongdoing deters future abuse.
  • Project Management: Poor planning and mismanagement led to rushed construction and subpar facilities. Robust project management with clear timelines and budgets is essential.

The road ahead involves prioritizing ethical practices, implementing stricter financial controls, and fostering a culture of accountability. Rebuilding trust requires a commitment to transparency and good governance in future large-scale projects.


The CWG scam stands as a stark reminder of India’s susceptibility to corruption in mega-projects. Legal battles secured some convictions, but the lengthy process and pending appeals underscore the need for a swifter justice system. Strengthening procurement practices, independent oversight bodies, and witness protection are vital to deter future wrongdoing. Recovering lost funds and ensuring complete accountability remain unresolved issues. The CWG scam serves as a cautionary tale, urging India to adopt stricter measures to safeguard public funds and prevent such scandals from tarnishing its reputation again


1. What were the effects of the Commonwealth scam?

The Organizing Committee broke the 1948 Minimum Wages Act, which led to widespread labour exploitation, as revealed by the Commonwealth hoax. Each day, skilled labourers received a salary of Rs. 120–130, while unskilled labourers received.

2. Who broke the CWG scam?

In the Timing-Scoring-Result (TSR) case, the CBI arrested Suresh Kalmadi, the former chairman of the CWG Organising Committee (OC), on April 25, 2011. He was taken into custody on the grounds of violating Indian Penal Code Section 420 (cheating) and Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy).

3. Is the Commonwealth Games still a thing?

The hunt for a host is still ongoing with just over two years till the 2026 games are scheduled to take place. The host for the Commonwealth Games in 2026 is still up in the air. The original host of the games, the Australian state of Victoria, withdrew in July 2023 as a result of growing expenses.

4. What challenges did the Commonwealth face?

The Commonwealth’s efforts to create resilient societies are beset with many obstacles. Difficult challenges include the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change.

5. What is the value of CWG scam?

One of the biggest Indian frauds, the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam, which involved theft of almost Rs 70,000 crore, occurred in New Delhi in 2010. It was projected that Indian athletes received only half of the allocated funding.

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