The Supreme Court directed Ten Sports to share its cricket feed with Doordarshan, and set for hearing the issue of claims settlement on April 15.
This interim order came from a Bench, comprising Chief Justice VN Khare, Justice N Santosh Hegde and Justice SH Kapadia, which overruled Ten Sports’ stand that it “cannot have any settlement with Doordarshan” on the issue of sharing its exclusive right to telecast the matches from Pakistan.
The relief, given in public interest by the court to Doordarshan, came with a rider. The court made it clear to Prasar Bharati that it could not use the exclusive telecast right of another channel for commercial gains. The national channel was restrained from showing any of its own advertisements during the match and 30 minutes before and after the match.
“Doordarshan, which did not have any right over the telecast, could not at this stage use the live feed for commercial gains,” it said, adding that the Rs 50 crore deposit was being taken from the national channel for future computation of loss and damages to parties, which will be argued before the court on April 15.
The money has to be deposited within a week.
The nearly two-hour-long hearing in a jam-packed court room saw the three judges spending most of their time in calming the flared tempers of the seasoned advocates from both sides, each disputing every fact cited by the other.
Ten Sports and Modi Entertainment, its telecast distributor in india, refused to have any settlement with Doordarshan, saying it would mean a minimum loss of Rs 208 crore for them, in addition to future revenue loss. The figure was strenuously contested by Solicitor General Kirit Raval on behalf of Doordarshan.
The court directive to deposit Rs 50 crore, of which Rs 10 crore has already been deposited by the Prasar Bharati in line with the March 15 order, came close the offer made by Doordarshan to pay $10 million for telecast of all the matches.
Beginning the proceedings, Ten Sports’ counsel Kapil Sibal made a scathing attack on the government and accused Law Minister Arun Jaitley, who was trying to sort out the impasse between the Dubai-based channel and Doordarshan in the capacity of an unofficial interlocutor, of not making an honest attempt to find a solution.
“Ten Sports chief Abdul Rahman Bukhatir spoke to him yesterday morning, but Jaitley never got back. There was absolutely no attempt on the part of the government to contact us. It is all humbug to say there was an attempt to solve the impasse,” Sibal said.
A visibly agitated Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee, appearing for the government, said he was prepared to put on affidavit before the court the numerous attempts made by officials to solve the issue and added that Doordarshan was even ready today to meet the officials of Ten Sports.
“We are ready to pay money to Ten Sports to show the live telecast of the matches without adding our advertisements,” he said.
“If somebody says whatever be the proposal of Doordarshan, ‘I am not going to agree to it’, then a solution can never be found,” he added.
Finding Ten Sports in an unrelenting mood, he said it was Doordarshan that would suffer revenue losses by showing the entire Ten Sports live feed without its own advertisements.
The court disagreed with the contention of Ten Sports and Modi Entertainment that the future loss of revenue could not be computed and said modern methods could be used to arrive at a reasonable figure of losses and damages.
Raval seriously disputed the claim of Modi Entertainment that it would suffer a loss of nearly Rs 208 crore if the matches were shown live on Doordarshan.
Raval showed the financial chart prepared by the cable network and said that it had added up its projected revenue for the entire year to arrive at the “magic figure of Rs 208 crore”, as its monthly income did not exceed Rs 21 crore.
On the contention of Doordarshan that it be given advertising rights after paying Rs 50 crore, the bench said, “Doordarshan cannot ask for advertisement rights. There must be some contribution from it towards the protection of public interest in making it possible for cricket fans in India to watch the historic series.”
When Sibal contended that Ten Sports bought the rights in 2002 and Doordarshan did not even bid, Sorabjee said there was no question of bidding the rights then as the armies of the two countries were facing each other.