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'What is the illegality in promoting Kochi franchise?'

By Bikash Mohapatra
April 14, 2010 19:07 IST
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Shashi Tharoor and controversy have become synonymous in recent times.

The latest one concerns the Union Minister's involvement in the Koch franchise deal and his subsequent standoff with IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi over the issue, following the latter's disclosure of the names, in his Twitter account on Sunday, of the free equity holders in Rendezvous Sports World, which eventually bagged the franchise.

What makes matters worse is a petition filed in the Suprem Court on Tuesday seeking a CBI probe into Tharoor's alleged proxy stakes in the franchise.

Ajay K Agrawal, the petitioner, has contended that the Minister of State for External Affairs had used his official position to help get 19 per cent of the stakes (pegged around Rs 70 crore) in the Rs 1533-crore franchise, free to Sunanda Pushkar.

Though Agrawal has reportedly said that he would make a plea before the apex court seeking early hearing of his petition, there aren't many who are convinced about the same.

"It is ridiculous," says lawyer Rahul Mehra, adding, "This PIL could have been pre-planned because it seems to have been filed overnight. The main player in it is something that needs to be understood."

Mehra, who took the Board of Control for Cricket in India to court a few years back and forced it to become more transparent, doesn't hide his disappointment over the petition.

"It seems, these days anybody can file a PIL," he says. "I don't know if it is independently filed or motivated, but you need to do a lot of investigations before you proceed to file one.

"I have filed three PILs myself and it takes about two years to file one," he explains.

The minister in question, Tharoor, has all along denied having a stake in the Kochi franchise, saying he played merely a facilitator's role.

And the lawyer, who has now filed a PIL against almost all major sporting bodies in India demanding them to come clean, also doesn't believe Tharoor is at fault in this case.

"According to me, his office has not been misused in any way," says Mehra.

"He perhaps shouldn't have promoted the franchise per se but what is the illegality in it?

"If one can prove that he has been given a free equity, then there's definitely a case of corruption. But that is not the case and, therefore, there's no case of corruption, but only impropriety, if at all."

Mehra goes to the extent of saying that the PIL will lead to nowhere.

"I don't think the PIL will achieve anything. In fact, I am surprised that it hasn't been dismissed yet," he says.

Whether the PIL achieves its purpose or not remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is the fact that this is definitely not the Union Minister's last tryst with controversy.

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Bikash Mohapatra in Mumbai

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