The Supreme Court will on Monday hear a writ petition filed by Zee Telefilms challenging the cancellation of the telecast rights awarded to it by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) between 2004 and 2008 and re-opening of the tender process.
A three-Judge Bench, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr R.C. Lahoti, Mr Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr Justice P.P. Naolekar, fixed the date after senior counsel Mr Harish Salve, who pleaded for early hearing, mentioned the petition. Since the BCCI has filed a caveat, the court will also hear its version before passing any order.
The petitioner contended that it had bagged the rights for telecast of the matches for $308 million and it had already paid the BCCI $20 million. It said the contract for the telecast rights concluded with the payment of $20 million by it to BCCI. Zee alleged that there was prior collusion between BCCI and sports channel ESPN-Star Sports, which led to the board's sudden turnaround cancelling the contract on September 21. It said a concluded contract could not be terminated by the BCCI, which could only reject a tender bid before finalising the contract.
Zee filed a writ petition in the apex court after the BCCI informed the Bombay High Court that it had cancelled the contract awarded to Zee. Following this, ESPN-Star Sports that had challenged the award of contract to Zee withdrew its petition.
In the petition before the Supreme Court, Zee sought a direction to the BCCI not to grant the telecast rights to any other channel before adjudication of the dispute raised by it and not to enforce any other contract that might have been concluded. The Union of India, the BCCI President, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Secretary of BCCI, ESPN-Star and PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd have been cited as respondents.
The Counsel for Zee, Mr Maninder Singh, told Business Line that the channel had submitted a fresh proposal to the board stating that it was fully equipped to telecast the forthcoming cricket series with Australia from October 6 on a par with international standards and that a new sports channel would be launched for this purpose on October 2. All the revenue collected by way of advertisements and other means would be kept in a separate account under the court's control, and any chartered accountant appointed by the board could audit it. If Zee succeeded in the petition before the apex court, it would get back the money; if not, the board could take back the money after paying the necessary commission and the cost of telecast of the matches. He said this proposal would be informed in the court on Monday.