PCB hints at legal action against Sethi if notice is not 'forthwith drawn'


The reply to Sethi’s lawyers explains that such a revelation was necessary as their client’s benefits and allowances © Getty

In its reply to former chairman Najam Sethi’s defamation notice, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s legal counsel on Friday out rejected any wrongdoing on its client’s part by releasing the details of Sethi’s personal expenses on its website – an unprecedented move – last month. A chart breaking down Sethi’s benefits and allowances during his four-year-long stay at the board as chairman ExCo, for three years, and PCB chairman reveals that the board had incurred costs of PKR 71.95 million. The four-page-long reply states that they had been “disclosed as part of its transparency and accountability policy”.

The reply to Sethi’s lawyers explains that such a revelation was necessary as their client’s benefits and allowances – such as PSL allowance – from 2014 to 2017 were approved retrospectively in 2018 when he had taken the board’s chairmanship. Furthermore, it states that there cannot be a claim of defamation if a public disclosure is made for the transparency purposes that also when “most cases were approved with your client’s participation”.

Sethi has denied receiving any PSL allowances. The reply says that a payment of PKR 7.04 million, in PSL allowances, had been made in August 2018 via check out of the total of PKR 14.18 million. But, it had to be stopped after Sethi informed the board’s chief financial officer that he had misplaced the check. The total amount still appears and would continue to do until Sethi refuses to take it or is altered by the Board of Governors.

The chart that represents accounts disclosure till 30th September 2018 will be updated quarterly and the benefits that the current chairman, Ehsan Mani, is receiving will be included accordingly, the reply says. It further states that Mani had not been given any furnished accommodation, which Sethi says has been provided to him, by the date of the chart’s release.

“At the outset the allegations of any wrong doing or intent on the part of our client to defame your client is categorically denied,” the reply reads. “The amounts disclosed in the chart pertaining to your client are solely based on financial records of the PCB as were overseen by your client in his capacity as chairman up until 20 August 2018.

“While some of these amounts have been audited, the amounts pertaining to the financial years 2018 and 2019 are yet to be audited and for which reason it has been clearly stated that these are subject to a final review by the board. Our client has only stated actual facts in the said public disclosure and no opinions or views have been disclosed hence the question of defamation does not arise.

“The legal notice is without any factual or legal basis and appears instead to have been issued to supplement your client’s purported intent to use it for a media campaign against our client and in turn seek to defame our client; consequent to which our client reserves its right to seeks in its discretion all available legal remedies at the appropriate time and specifically if the legal notice under reply is not forthwith withdrawn.”

Sethi had sent a defamation notice to the cricket board via his lawyers last month. He claimed that current Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was using the board, of which he is a patron, to tarnish Sethi’s reputation.

In his three-page legal notice, Sethi’s lawyer had stated: “There is no valid business reason for the release of such incorrect and misleading information.Instead, the publication of the chart is clearly intended to malign Mr. Sethi, presumably at the behest of Mr Imran Khan. It is unfortunately beyond measure that you are complicit in the abuse of PCB for male fide political purposes. You and PCB are thereby called upon to apology to Mr. Sethi and to withdraw the chart. If you fail to do so, we have been instructed to commence appropriate proceedings under the Defamation Ordinance, 2002. Please note that such proceedings will be at your risk and cost.”

The poor relationship between Sethi and Khan is well-documented. In the aftermath of Khan’s loss in the 2013 general elections, he accused Sethi – then interm chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province – of rigging the election in his rival and eventual prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s favour. Khan went on a mass campaign against the alleged rigging and often accused Sethi of tempering with the results of as many as 35 constituencies.

It is pertinent to mention here that over the years PCB chairmen have taken measures and audited finances for the accountability purposes of the previous regimes. Sethi had asked for an audit of his predecessor Zaka Ashraf’s tenure. Ijaz Butt took it a step further in 2008 as he commissioned a government-organised audit into terms of Tauqeer Zia, Sheheryar Khan, and Nasim Ashraf.

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