The IPL Mess December 10, 2010

Rajasthan verdict likely on Monday

The Bombay High Court is expected to announce on Monday its verdict in the Rajasthan Royals case, where the BCCI has appealed against the stay granted on the franchise's expulsion by an independent arbitrator. Both parties have completed arguments, with the board repeating its contention that the ownership of Rajasthan had changed hands while the franchise maintained that the "ultimate control" of the team had remained the same.

Justice S Vazifdar, who is hearing the case, had granted an interim injunction to Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday, restoring to the team all its rights under the IPL franchise agreement, subject to certain conditions. The similarity between that case and Rajasthan's prompted speculation of a similar judgement today. However, Rajasthan's decision to not pay any monetary guarantees - unlike Punjab - led to Vazifdar deferring the decision to Monday.

Rajasthan had gone to court against the board's decision in October to terminate them for alleged violations in shareholding pattern, ownership and change in ultimate control without obtaining prior consent of the BCCI. The court directed that the matter be settled through arbitration. But in a setback for the BCCI, the arbitrator, Justice BN Srikrishna, observed that the board was aware all along of the franchise's alleged violations that formed the basis of the termination, and that Rajasthan had not, in fact, violated the franchise agreement. The BCCI moved the High Court immediately to contest Srikrishna's verdict.

Monday's judgement would be vital for the board because if Vajifdar upholds the arbitrator's verdict, the Indian board could be forced to field ten teams in the fourth edition of the IPL. Also the player auction, scheduled on January 8 and 9, will go ahead as planned. The board will then have the choice of approaching the two-judge divisional bench of the Bombay High Court, and move the Supreme Court after that, if need be.

During Thursday's arguments, BCCI counsel CA Sundaram said Srikrishna had based his judgement on certain assumptions. Under the franchise agreement, any change in control or corporate structure in the bid company cannot happen without the approval of the board. "Such an approval has to be taken 15 days before the change is made," Sundaram told the court.

According to Sundaram the arbitrator erred in considering the ultimate control of the bid company had changed post the date of franchise agreement . That was because "the date should have been that of the Letter of Eligibily (LoE) and not of the franchise agreement," Sundaram said.

The board's charge was that the bid company was Emerging Media (IPL) Pvt Ltd UK (EMIPL), but it was now only a minority shareholder in the franchise. Sundaram said that at the time the LoE was submitted, there was only one bidding company, EMIPL. "However, as of today there was a Mauritius-based company [EM Sporting Holdings] whose holding structure is not known to the Indian board. Therefore, the BCCI now did not trust the Jaipur franchise and therefore, the termination."

Rajasthan's counsel Janak Dwarkadas said "ultimate control" had never changed in his client's company. He said that originally when the franchise was formed the intended structure was meant to comprise of the ultimate company, the Mauritius-based EM Sporting, whose subsidiary would be Jaipur IPL Pvt. Ltd. (the applicant at the time of bidding)."

"The UK company was the bid company where Fraser Castelino and Ranjit Barthakur were the shareholders when the LoE was submitted. After the franchise agreement was signed, the UK Company sold its shares to the Mauritius company and now the Mauritius company was the parent company, whose subsidiary was Jaipur IPL, and these changes were bought to the notice of BCCI who had approved the same," Dwarkadas said.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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