Suspended Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner, Lalit Modi, who gave BCCI’s disciplinary committee hearing a miss in Mumbai on Friday, informed the Indian cricket board through his lawyers that he could not come to India because there was a threat to his life from the underworld.

When TOI got in touch with Modi’s lawyer Mehmood Abdi, he declined to comment. A senior functionary in the board, however, confirmed that Modi’s lawyer had indeed told BCCI that there was threat to Modi’s life from underworld don Chhota Shakeel.

“When the disciplinary committee members asked Modi’s lawyer about his whereabouts, the members were told he is not in India because there is a threat to his life from the underworld,” a top BCCI official said. BCCI was told that Modi has been out of the country since May 25 because of this danger.

Interestingly, Modi’s claim has come at a time when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is about to conclude its probe into the IPL mess.

Sources also told TOI that when the disciplinary committee — comprising IPL’s interim chairman Chirayu Amin, Arun Jaitley and Jyotiraditya Scindia — wanted to know when Modi would be available in India to appear before the board, his lawyers couldn’t give any assurance. “There is no commitment from Modi’s side. Even his lawyer couldn’t give any assurance,” the official said.

The committee then took the decision to allow Modi to be represented by his lawyer. This decision is in a departure from its memorandum of rules and regulations. The committee heard at length Modi’s second counsel Venkatesh Dhond’s arguments on an earlier plea raised for recusal of its members through letters sent to the board on May 25 and July 6. Modi has sought the recusal of Amin and Jaitley saying they would be biased against him during the proceedings.

It is learnt that Dhond also wanted to file an additional plea in this regard to substantiate the request for recusal of the panel’s members and the panel has decided to give him time till July 18. After allowing Modi to be represented by his lawyer, the disciplinary committee further took a stand that since Modi’s request has been granted, the board should also be allowed to be represented by its lawyer.

“We have considered submissions of Mr Dhond and are of the view that his pleas have substantial merit in them. There are complex issues relating to interpretation of documents involved. One of us (Jaitley) has a legal background. Additionally we feel that the outcome of the disciplinary enquiry impinges on the reputation of the person against whom the enquiry is being held. Even though BCCI’s memorandum, rules and regulations do not contain any stipulation for representation through lawyers of a person against whom the enquiry is being held, it is a matter of the discretion of the disciplinary committee.

“In view of the complex nature of certain issues involved, interpretation of documents required, and additionally that one of us on the committee has a legal background, we feel that it would be just and fair that Mr Modi be allowed to be represented through a lawyer in the enquiry,” the disciplinary committee stated in its minutes.