The IPL Mess May 14, 2010

Modi can take the legal route

Tariq Engineer

Sometime on Saturday afternoon, Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL chairman, will present the BCCI with a formal defence of the accusations made against him. The matter will then pass on to the board's three-man disciplinary committee, comprising Shashank Manohar (president) and two vice-presidents, Arun Jaitley and Chirayu Amin (the interim IPL chairman), which is expected to review the situation in mid-June and then deliver its verdict on Modi's future.

However, even an adverse decision by the disciplinary committee does not mean the end of the road for Modi. While the BCCI is a private body governed by its own constitution and by-laws, Modi can appeal to India's legal system for justice under certain circumstances. That's the opinion of the Delhi-based lawyer Rahul Mehra, who over the past few years - and especially the past few weeks - has revealed himself to be something of an expert on the BCCI's administration. Mehra famously filed a public interest litigation against the BCCI in 2000 in an attempt to extract more accountability from the board.

Modi, Mehra told Cricinfo, can seek redress with the courts if the BCCI violates any of the provisions in its constitution or by-laws in the process of prosecuting Modi. Likewise, he can seek a remedy if he has not been given adequate time to respond to the charges against him, or been denied a free and fair opportunity to defend himself. That, he said, could explain why the BCCI was willing to grant Modi a five-day extension to prepare his defence.

"The BCCI is trying to be seen as a body which is not just doing justice, but is seen to be doing justice," Mehra said.

Similarly, the emails Modi has sent to BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan demanding the exclusive use of written evidence against him and challenging the validity of the BCCI's verbal evidence by claiming a "fictitious source", could be seen as an attempt by Modi to project the BCCI as failing to conduct a fair and balanced inquiry.

If Modi does take the legal route, it wouldn't be the first time a decision by the BCCI has been challenged in the courts. Former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja both contested their bans from cricket in the wake of the match-fixing scandal. Azharuddin lost the case against his life ban but Jadeja, who was banned for five years, got the Delhi High Court to quash his ban in 2003 on the grounds that the BCCI's probe was one-sided.

Mehra thinks Modi will eventually have to take the BCCI to court as the board, according to him, seems prima facie determined to oust the suspended chairman. Modi could choose to file a court case before that, or wait until the disciplinary committee issues a ruling. If the committee does decide to remove him from his post as IPL chairman permanently, he can argue that any dismissal is illegal and request the court to reinstate him.

Of course, that doesn't mean Modi will be reinstated. It all depends on the evidence. He needs to convince the court that the officials of the BCCI have fallen foul of their own standards, or the standard of fairness, in their attempt to dismiss him. But if the BCCI has the weight of evidence on its side, then it will finally be the end of Modi's brief, but spectacular, innings.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor with Cricinfo