The telecast rights dispute before the Supreme Court saw the Board of Control for Cricket in India daring the Union Government to show proof of grant of "recognition" to it as the apex body administering cricket, and whether it has any control over its activities and functioning.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal adopted this stand before a five-judge bench, comprising Justice N Santosh Hegde, Justice S N Variava, Justice B P Singh, Justice H K Sema and Justice S B Sinha, on Thursday.
Venugopal's reply came as a counter to the stand taken by the Centre through Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who said the Board is a 'State' within the meaning of the provisions of the Constitution and, hence, the writ petition of Zee TV would be maintainable against the BCCI.
Zee had challenged the cancellation of the tender process for the award of the telecast rights for all cricket matches to be held in India between 2004 and 2008.
Parasaran cited a host of reasons to advance his argument that the BCCI carried out a function that is akin to the function of the government and said the Centre has recognized BCCI as the apex body for administration of the game of cricket in India.
However, the Board contended that it neither receives any financial grant nor recognition from the government and that it is a private, autonomous body.
The Bench, after hearing Parasaran, said, "Most of your arguments fail when you have no proof to show that you have recognised the BCCI as the apex body in the field of cricket."
Parasharan said the government exercised various controls over sports bodies, including the BCCI, which from time to time had been complying with its directions including non-participation of the Indian cricket team in tournaments held at non-regular venues like Sharjah, Toronto and Singapore.
The court said that at no point of time the BCCI had either sought or got recognition from the government, and wanted to know how it could be classified as a 'state' without the government exercising any control over its finances and administration and also the selection of the Indian team.
When government said it held the key for participation of Indian cricket team in international events, the court said, "You have the power not to give the permission for traveling abroad and not to give them foreign exchange. Apart from these what else do you do to exercise control over BCCI?"
The government also said it has the power to select the Indian cricket team for participating and sending it abroad.
"We are not doing it as we have entrusted the job to BCCI," Parasharan said.
The bench asked whether the ICC would recognize the team in the event of the government selecting it.
"Then we can cancel BCCI's recognition and thereafter ICC may accept the team selected by the Indian government," the Centre said.
Countering this, the BCCI said the government exercised no control over administrative and financial activities of the cricket body and that it had never submitted its accounts to either the government or any governmental authority other than the Registrar of the Cooperative Societies.