Mumbai:The BCCI may have decided to expel the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab out of the IPL, but lawyers say the two franchises can take the board to court over its unilateral action and have their cases referred to arbitration under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
The IPL franchise agreement specifically provides for arbitration in the case of a dispute that cannot be settled amicably. Clause 21.1 of the agreement, states that "such dispute shall be submitted to arbitration and conclusively resolved by a single arbitrator appointed by mutual consent."
Delhi-based lawyer Rahul Mehra, who famously filed a public interest litigation against the BCCI in 2000 in an attempt to extract more accountability from the board, told ESPNcricinfo that if the agreement allows for arbitration, then "there should be arbitration."
Usha Nath Bannerjee, who has represented former board president Jagmohan Dalmiya when he was taken to court by the BCCI over alleged corruption, seconded Mehra's opinion. Banerjee, who was also the lawyer for India footballer Bhaichung Bhutia during a Kolkata club dispute said the matter has to be referred to a high court, "in the absence of an agreed arbitrator."
If the situation cannot be settled through negotiations, Mehra believes the franchises will ultimately go to court as there are issues of defamation in play as well. "There has been damage to their reputations," he said. "Their brand was created over three years and has now been completely tarnished."
The IPL franchise agreement also states that only the BCCI-IPL, and not the franchisee, has the right to file a case in the Mumbai court (clause 21.6), but Mehra says this violates the principles of natural justice. "You can't take a decision of this magnitude by saying we will do it, and we won't give you a chance to be heard. You have got to give them the right to be heard."
Bannerjee said that the clause in the franchise agreement that forbid a franchise from going to court was "immaterial". He said that the principles of natural justice have to be read as incorporated in any agreement. Banerjee said, "If I have a statutory or legal right under the law, it cannot be taken away." According to the 'principles of natural justice', universally regarded as fundamental to a fair legal system, no one can be a judge in his own case and every side should be given the opportunity to present their case.
Both lawyers agreed the franchisees' case is likely to be heard by the courts. Should the court decide to take on the case, any decisions to do with IPL 2011 will probably be stayed until the matter is decided. Depending on how long the case takes, this could result in the postponement of the player auction currently scheduled for mid-to-late November.