It was a big day for former Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi as he finally got back his passport and with it, the permit to return to India. Modi has lived in the UK with a residence permit since 2010. His return is likely to spice up the Board of Control for Cricket in India elections in September.
Modi, a former vice-president of the BCCI, was banned for life by the Indian cricket Board in September 2013. A committee headed by Arun Jaitley found him guilty of financial irregularities in the cash-rich IPL, a tournament that Modi started in 2008. Modi has challenged the BCCI ban in court. (Also read: Suspended RCA not included in 2014-15 schedule)
Defying the BCCI, Modi contested the Rajasthan Cricket Association elections in December last year. Riding a controversial Rajasthan Sports Act, Modi contested the president's post and won with comprehensive ease. The RCA elections were supervised by court officers. The BCCI promptly suspended Rajasthan.
Modi's supporters celebrated in Jaipur on Wednesday after a division bench of Delhi High Court restored his passport, clearing his return to India. Modi's passport was revoked in March 2010.
Mehmood Abdi, the deputy president of RCA, told NDTV, "Lalit Modi will be back soon but can't set a date of return yet. He was very excited to hear the news of his passport. There was a prejudice that he was a fugitive and was hiding in England. Those thoughts will be put to an end now."
Modi was granted residence in UK after his passport was revoked by the court on Enforcement Directorate's insistence. He had appealed to the British authorities that his passport was wrongly cancelled and his appeal was upheld by three courts in the UK.
Earlier this year, Modi got a travel permit to travel to Europe but that was given on humanitarian grounds since he was taking one of his family members to Portugal for treatment.
While ED has no more cases against Modi, his name features in the FEMA violations case against the BCCI because he was an office bearer when IPL2 was held in South Africa in 2010.
Modi's return is likely to impact the Board elections in September, said Abdi. With N. Srinivasan's future in BCCI in the hands of the Supreme Court, Modi could once again return to cricket administration. Modi and Srinivasan are arch-rivals. The Supreme Court has suspended Srinivasan until the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandals are sorted.
Meanwhile, the BCCI has appointed an ad-hoc committee to run Rajasthan cricket. More rounds of legal battles are expected. How will Modi's return, if at all, impacts Rajasthan and Indian cricket remains to be seen.