The IPL Mess

Modi files reply to BCCI chargesheet

Nagraj Gollapudi

May 15, 2010

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Lalit Modi talks on the phone at the IPL awards, Mumbai, April 23, 2010
Lalit Modi's reply and supporting evidence run into approximately 12,000 pages and were wheeled into the BCCI in large cardboard cartons © Indian Premier League
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Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL chairman, has filed his reply to the BCCI's show-cause notice in typically dramatic fashion - the reply and supporting evidence run into approximately 15,000 pages and were wheeled into the BCCI headquarters in six large cardboard cartons. His lawyer Mehmood Abdi, who oversaw the delivery in Modi's absence, sounded bullish during an impromptu press conference in Mumbai, saying he believed the response would satisfy the board and get his client reinstated.

None of the principals involved - Modi, the BCCI president Shashank Manohar and secretary N Srinivasan - were present at Saturday's handover. The documents were received by Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer.

Modi is in Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, from where he wrote on his Twitter page that he would speak in public after giving the BCCI time to go through his reply. "All I have to say for the moment is I have replied in complete detail to all charges even though there were no complaints, but as if there were," he wrote.

Modi was earlier expected to submit his reply on May 11, but had requested the board for a five-day extension, asking for more documents to prepare his defence. But for the restless media the wait continued into the early evening today as Modi's counsel, expected to arrive in the second half, only did so at 6 pm.

After spending nearly an hour making the submission, a smiling Abdi walked out with a victory sign, proudly holding the reply document. The BCCI show-cause comprised 35 pages but Modi's reply ran along 160 pages; about 15,000 pages of additional evidence was neatly packed into two separate boxes, marked separately for the perusal of Manohar and Srinivasan.

Abdi said his triumphal gesture was just an indication of the confidence he had in Modi's defence and the possibility of quick justice despite an exhaustive reply document which one smart reporter pointed out equalled the defence of the convicted terrorist in the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasab. "I showed the sign because the BCCI president is an eminent lawyer and he shouldn't take more than four hours to wind it up," Abdi said.

"The documents we have filed today are voluminous but the BCCI president is an eminent lawyer, he is in the habit of reading thousands of pages in minutes, so we hope for an early decision," Abdi said. "This is in simple prose and is a direct defence of Mr Modi. I am confident the president would be satisfied 100 percent, 1000 percent and he would be re-instated forthwith. Modi should be reinstated as IPL chairman and BCCI vice-president."

Incidentally, Abdi contested the basic premise the BCCI used for suspending Modi. The board had suspended Modi under Clause 32 (iv) of the Memorandum and the Rules and Regulations of the BCCI. Under the said rules, the secretary, in consultation with the BCCI president, must issue a notice for the alleged misconduct. Abdi stressed that for the board to issue a show-cause, it should have received a "written complaint".

"The show-cause notice issued under Article 32 (iv) of the BCCI by-laws has not been properly applied in case of Mr Lalit Modi. Ideally there should have been a show-cause based on a written complaint. After receiving that complaint a show-cause could have been issued and if the president was not satisfied with the reply then he could have referred the matter to the disciplinary committee. The day the committee takes charge of the complaint the proceeding would have started whereas in this case he has been put under suspension from day one," Abdi pointed out.

According to Abdi, the very fact that the charges were based mostly on oral allegations strengthened Modi's case in a big way. He said that his client had constantly requested the board to reveal the name of the "reliable source", who verbally alleged to Manohar that Modi was involved in tarnishing the board's image and the game, and also rigging the auction for the two new franchises in March. In his email exchanges with Srinivasan this week, Modi demanded more details about the source and questioned why his/her name was not being revealed by the board, which is calling the alleged verbal conversation "private and confidential".

On May 13, Modi received a shot in the arm when the board wrote back, saying he could reply on the basis of the paperwork handed over to him by the BCCI. "All facts and documents, on which the notice has been issued, have been supplied to you," the board said. "You may send your reply on the basis of the facts and documents which have been referred to."

Abdi said the documents submitted by the BCCI were of routine nature and negligible consequence. "The main thing the show-cause notice says is based on the hearsay or gossips because [it is] despite [Modi] having impressed upon the BCCI twice or thrice to come out with names of the people who have made allegations against Mr Modi. Mr Modi told the BCCI I reserve the right to cross-examine these people. Two days back, the BCCI wrote back to us that we are going to rely upon on the documents we have supplied to you. But still Mr Modi has tried to explain even the charges made in these oral allegations."

There have been indications since April 26, when the chargesheet was issued, that Modi would reveal another side to the charges to indicate that any culpability in this issue was not his alone. Abdi seemed to back that up on Saturday. He referred to khel ke andar khel, or games within games, and said the response would "give a new perspective to the issue."

Abdi said Modi, despite having suffered immense "pain due to the sweeping oral allegations", has still managed to exercise patience. "Despite the tone, tenor and the content of the show-cause being quite provocative, Mr Modi has been able to maintain calm and restraint while responding to the queries or allegations raised."

In its notice to Modi, handed over shortly after the IPL final in Mumbai, the BCCI listed five principal charges. These include doubts over the bids for the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab franchises, a "facilitation fee" for renegotiation of the IPL broadcast rights, rigging of the franchise bids in 2010 and Modi's "behavioural pattern."

The next significant step in this matter is likely to take a while. Modi's reply will now be taken up by the BCCI; if it is not satisfied with the reply, it will refer the case to its three-man disciplinary committee.

Lawyers Harish Salve, Ram Jethmalani, Mahesh Jethmalani, Swadeep Vohra, Abhishek Singh and Venkatesh Dhone along with Abdi's own team drafted the reply.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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