For the fifth time, the Supreme Court has adjourned the Rajasthan Cricket Association election case. The matter was listed on Tuesday but the apex court deferred it to March 25, the same day the inquiry committee reports on corruption in the Indian Premier League will be heard by a separate bench. It is clearly becoming a case of so-near-and-yet-so-far for Lalit Modi, who is aiming to return as president of the RCA.
In spite of the Board of Control for Cricket in India conceding 'defeat' in the RCA elections in December last year, the former IPL chairman's return as Rajasthan president is being fiercely contested by the Board's lawyers in the Supreme Court. Three previous hearings in the apex court have drawn a blank for Modi and his followers. The matter was supposed to be heard last Tuesday (March 4), but was adjourned.
Hell-bent on stopping Modi's return to cricket administration, BCCI lawyers have played almost every stroke in the book to stop the Supreme Court from making a decision. In a dramatic move on January 27, the BCCI's lawyers told a bench of Justices A.R. Dave and J.S. Kehar that Modi was a clear winner in the RCA elections having won "26 out of the 33 votes."
Like a brisk start in a T20 match, the submission was made as soon as the hearing began so as to prevent the bench from opening the envelopes containing the results of the poll and declare the result, officially. The BCCI counsel contended that declaration of the result should await adjudication of their objections that Modi, who is facing a life ban for financial irregularities in the IPL, should not have been allowed to contest at all.
BCCI and former RCA chief Kishore Rungta are challenging the controversial Rajasthan Sports Act 2005 that enabled Modi contest the December elections. Thirty-three units, affiliated to the RCA, voted on December 19. The elections were held under the supervision of two retired Supreme Court judges, NM Kasliwal and SP Pathak. The votes were submitted to the apex court in a sealed envelope. The Board says Modi's return will tarnish the image of Indian cricket.
The cricket fraternity sees the BCCI-Rungta versus Modi court battle as a fight between the current BCCI president N. Srinivasan and the man who gave India a unique international cricket tournament. It was at Srinivasan's behest that Modi was suspended from the BCCI in April 2010 and subsequently banned in September last year. Modi promptly obtained a stay order from the Rajasthan High Court and decided to contest the RCA elections riding on the Sports Act that does not recognize BCCI rules. The same Sports Act had made Modi RCA president in 2005.
In spite of a BCCI threat to ban Rajasthan, Justice Kasliwal and Patnaik allowed the RCA elections to go through. Modi's counsel Harish Salve has pointed out that Srinivasan was at the helm of BCCI's affairs despite his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan facing criminal charges in connection with the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal.
Modi's return could change power equations in Indian cricket administration. The tainted former IPL boss now lives in the UK and is unlikely to return to India any time soon. His supporters say Modi can easily run the RCA by "remote-control." Rajasthan cricket did see a revival during Modi's tenure. But court battles can be protracted and gruelling affairs and with both sides not willing to throw in the towel easily, the Supreme Court bench is surely on a difficult wicket.