May 16, 2010

The Dostoyevsky Defense!!!

It’s a good thing the IPL is over and with it, all reason to be concerned about the environment. Six cartons of printouts running into a few thousand pages [I read five newspapers this morning and all of them cite a different figure -- was tempted to hold up the hand of the highest bidder and declare that paper the winner] — what was Modi thinking?

Actually, the “IPL chairman and commissioner (suspended)” — trust Modi to use his suspension on his visiting card — and his legal team has been thinking fairly hard. And fairly well. And their response could in time to come be studied by those who study such things, under the title The Dostoyevsky Defense or some such: note that his reply is roughly the size of Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground. Combined.

You’ve got to love the man. Not only does he bury the BCCI under a mountain of paper while he himself chills in Monaco, he adds a gratuitous barb that it should take a “trained lawyer” like Shashank Manohar only three or four days to go through those six crates. Brilliant.

The framing of his defense has been uniformly fascinating. Step one [kind of like castling, say, where the objective was to build a defensive stronghold] was when he demanded that all charges against him be basis documentary evidence. Consider the original charges one more time: “behavioral patterns” is off the board because what the hell kind of documents can the board produce to back that up?; the charge that he tried to muscle Kochi into surrendering the franchise is equally off the table because (a) he is certainly smart enough not to threaten anyone through documented paperwork in triplicate and (b) the minutes of his meetings with the franchise, which IPL CEO Sundar Raman wrote, would only tend to present the picture Modi wished to present.

So that is two out of six charges defused. A third relates to the charge of finagling the internet rights to favor family and friends — and on that no one, not the board, not even the various investigative arms of the government, have been able to piece together with appropriate documentation the elaborate shell game through which rights were transfered and re-transfered until they ended up in the ‘right’ hands. So that is three out of six charges defanged even before the disciplinary hearings have even started.

The remaining three charges are what Modi and his battery of high priced lawyers have buried under a blizzard of paperwork — and significantly, the papers are supposed to include copies of SMSes sent to “members of the governing council”. That line underscores what has become common knowledge in recent times — that while Modi did not at all times take the governing council in toto into his confidence, he roped in various individual members, including two former cricketers who are part of the council, into parts of various schemes [that also explains why Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar have, unlike Pataudi, been totally silent on the issue ever since it hit the headlines].

Modi’s strategy is simple, and so is his defense: injured innocence, and a paper trail a mile wide to show that various members of the council knew what he was doing as he was doing it.

In other words, he changes the nature of the charges against him. It is not about whether there was irregularity in the granting of franchises to KXIP and Rajasthan Royals — the point, he will argue, is not whether everything was kosher or not, but whether he kept the governing council in the loop while it was all happening. To that end, his argument is, if I informed one member of the council of what I was doing at the time I was doing it, it is tantamount to having informed the whole council.


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