Lalit Modi’s plea against IPL disciplinary committee dismissed by Supreme Court

Lalit Kumar Modi vs Board of Control for Cricket in India & Ors.


Three Special Leave Petitions sought to challenge three orders passed by three different benches of Bombay High Court, on the proceedings initiated by the appellant against the first respondent Board of Control for Cricket in India.

 The petitioner is a member of the first respondent representing one of its constituent associations. As a part of its activities, the first respondent had organized a cricket competition under the banner `Indian Premier League’ shortly known as (IPL), and the petitioner was appointed as the in charge Chairman thereof.

The first respondent received a complaint from a bidder alleging breach of confidentiality against the petitioner. The petitioner was therefore, suspended from his position on 25.4.2010. (a) He was served with a show cause notice dated 25.4.2010 inter-alia alleging/accusing him of (i) accepting multi-million dollar kickback while assigning the telecasting rights for IPL matches; (ii) attempting to rig the bids for the two new IPL teams-that were auctioned the previous month; (iii) having proxy stakes in IPL teams; (iv) entering into transactions with rank strangers against the mandate of the Governing Council of the IPL; (v) helping family members in benefiting from the IPL contracts.

Another show cause notice was issued to him which alleged inter-alia that he was seeking to create a parallel cricket body at international level (particularly in England) and thereby subvert the present International Cricket structure.

The petitioner wrote to Shri Shashank Manohar, the Honorary President of the first respondent requesting him that he should recuse himself from the decision making process in the interest of fairness. The first respondent served him the third show cause notice on the same day wherein they alleged amongst other things that the petitioner had committed irregularities and illegalities in the award of the IPL tenders for the Theatrical Rights.

Consequent upon the objection raised by the petitioner, Shri Shanshank Manohar recused himself from the Disciplinary Committee, which was to decide upon the show cause notices. The first respondent has a disciplinary committee to deal with the misconducts of its members.

On Shri Manohar recusing himself from the Committee, Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed in his place. The other two members of the Committee were Shri Chirayu Amin and Shri Arun Jaitely as nominated earlier. The petitioner filed a Writ Petition in the Bombay High Court, and prayed that the order of suspension be recalled and he be reinstated, the three show cause notices be directed to be withdrawn, and the decision to refer the matter to the Disciplinary Committee be also directed to be recalled. Alternatively he prayed that the first respondent be directed to appoint a mutually acceptable and an independent person or panel to consider the replies of the Petitioner to the show cause notices, and to decide whether the allegations are required to be referred to the Disciplinary Committee or the matter should be closed.

The petitioner raised two issues (i) The first ground of objection was that the Committee was not validly constituted. This was on the footing that the rules and regulations of the first respondent society are a matter of contract amongst its members, and the Committee should be constituted strictly in accordance with the particular rule. The above referred rule 1 (q) provides for a Disciplinary Committee consisting of the President and two other persons. Since the President had recused himself from the Committee, the Disciplinary Committee will have to either wait until the next President is elected so that the committee is reconstituted after including the new President therein, or if the Committee is to consist of three persons other than the President, it should consist of persons who are unbiased and acceptable to the petitioner.

(ii) The second objection was that the members of the Committee suffered from an institutional bias. The petitioner could not expect fair play from the members who have already been party to the decision to initiate the disciplinary action against the petitioner.

The Writ Petition was dismissed by a Division Bench of Bombay High Court. The Division Bench rejected the submission about the defect in the Committee. It held that the substitution of the President by Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia was acceptable on the basis of the doctrine of necessity. It repelled the argument with respect to bias, and held that whatever decision is rendered by the Committee could be challenged by the petitioner after the decision became available. The Court further held that in case the petitioner had any grievance against the functioning of any of the members of the Committee, he may apply to the Committee that such a member may recuse himself from the Committee.

Subsequent to the order passed by the Division Bench, the petitioner applied to the Committee members that they should all recuse themselves from functioning as members of the Disciplinary Committee. The Committee rejected that application. It led to the filing of second Writ Petition by the petitioner in Bombay High Court. That petition also came to be dismissed by another Division Bench of Bombay High Court.

During the course of the calendar year 2010, the first respondent constituted a regular Disciplinary Committee for 2010-2011, and extended the special Committee consisting of Sarvashri Arun Jaitley, Chirayu Amin and Jyotiraditya Scindia for continuing with the enquiry against the petitioner. The extension granted to this Committee was challenged by the petitioner by filing suit on the original side of the Bombay High Court. The notice of motion moved therein for injunction against the Committee came to be rejected first by a Single Judge and then in appeal by a Division Bench of the High Court.

The objections of the petitioner to the constitution of the Committee before the Supreme Court was twofold. Firstly, the Committee was not validly constituted and secondly, it suffered from institutional bias. The petitioner contended that he had a reasonable apprehension of bias against the members of the Committee, and therefore a reconstitution of the Committee as suggested by the petitioner was desirable from the point of view of fair-play.

The Supreme Court discussed the case law and the relevant rule in detail and concluded that it had to follow the judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Court in M.P. Special Police Establishment Vs. State of M.P. reported in [2004 (8) SCC 788], and the judgment of four Judges in T.P. Daver Vs. Lodge Victoria. As held in M.P. Special Police Establishment, a mere apprehension of bias cannot be a ground for interference. There must exist a real danger of bias. And, following T.P. Daver Vs. Lodge Victoria, though such domestic inquiries have undoubtedly to be fair, a member of a society cannot stretch the principle of fairness to the extent of demanding a tribunal consisting of outsiders, on the basis that the society members are biased against him. As the petitioner had, in clear terms stated that he was not making any personal allegations against two members of the Disciplinary Committee, viz. Shri Jaitely and Shri Scindia and even the grievance against the third member Shri Amin could not be said to be well founded. The petitioner was alleging institutional bias against the members of the Committee, which was only on the basis of their participation in the meetings of the first respondent society. In this way, institutional bias could be alleged against every member of the Governing Council of IPL and the General Body of the first respondent which could not be accepted. The petitioner might have an apprehension, but it was not possible to say from the material on record that he was facing a real danger of bias. Taking a view as canvassed by the petitioner would lead to a demand for interference in the enquiries conducted by all other societies in such situations, and that could not be approved in view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court. Also the Supreme Court held that the Committee was validly constituted under the relevant rule in view of the necessity arising due to the recusal of the President of BCCI from the Committee. Thus the petitions were dismissed.