The IPL player auction could be deferred by another couple of months because of the ongoing legal dispute between the BCCI and the two expelled franchises, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. If that happens, the auction, which has already been moved from November to January 8 and 9 because of the uncertainty surrounding the status of these two franchises, as well as the Kochi franchise, could now wind up clashing with the World Cup, which begins in the sub-continent on February 18.
“I don’t think the auction will happen before March,” a top IPL official told ESPNcricinfo. Since the BCCI is not close to reconciling with either of the franchises, the official believes that whichever party receives an adverse judgement will definitely approach a higher court to defend itself. “This is going to be a long drawn-out battle – if the court favours the BCCI, then the other side will go to the Supreme Court and vice-versa. The whole thing is sub-judice. Whatever happens in the High Court, one party will go to the Supreme Court.”
On October 10, the board had terminated both Rajasthan and Punjab over disputed ownership rights, and the failure to report the change of control in the shareholding pattern to the IPL governing council. Both franchises eventually approached the Bombay High Court, and subsequently opted for arbitration.
The board selected Justice BN Srikrishna as the judge in both arbitration cases, and his interim judgement in the case of Rajasthan caught the BCCI unawares. After having heard both parties for three days, the judge said that “prima facie” the Indian board was aware of the change of the control in the ownership structure at Rajasthan and their defence was “too facile to cut ice.” He imposed a stay on Rajasthan’s expulsion and instructed the IPL to allow them to exercise all their rights under the franchise agreement.
Before Punjab’s case could be heard the next day, Srikrishna announced that he had been the legal counsel of the Wadia Group 35 years ago, and withdrew from the case as Ness Wadia is one of the co-owners of the Punjab team. The board then approached the Bombay High Court seeking relief from the stay on Rajasthan’s removal, with the matter likely to come before the court this week.
According to the IPL official, any High Court order concerning the two franchises was unlikely to take place before December 15 at the earliest. “And if the party goes to Supreme Court, it will have to wait as the court will be closed for winter vacation.” The court will re-open in the first week of January and he said, “Only if the case is dismissed prima facie, then the matter ends. Otherwise it is most likely to extend to February at least.”
While there was no discussion in the meeting about the next steps to be taken in the run-up to IPL 4, members of the governing council were aware of the urgency of the issue. Asked if there was any danger of the IPL not happening he denied the possibility, saying, “The IPL will definitely happen, regardless of [the auction clashing with] the World Cup.”
The franchises seem to have anticipated such a development. “If the BCCI does not compromise and sticks to eight teams [instead of 10] then this is bound to get stretched and it will affect the auction dates,” one franchise official said, adding that they could only watch and hope something positive works out soon.