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Cricketing public must know how TV rights work: HC

Source: PTI
September 21, 2010 18:52 IST
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In a significant observation that might affect the way BCCI enters into contracts for broadcast rights of matches, Bombay High Court has held that the "cricketing public" must know about these deals.

The issue of broadcast rights deals came up before the court when MSM (Singapore) sought an injunction restraining WSG (Mauritius) from proceeding with arbitration in Singapore.

MSM filed a case in Bombay High Court, seeking refund of facilitation fee of Rs 125 crore, which it paid to WSG for IPL media rights in 2009. MSM alleges that WSG never possessed media rights in the first place, as later confirmed by BCCI.

WSG's contended that as per facilitation agreement, all disputes should be resolved through arbitration.

However, a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice S C Dharmadhikari rejected WSG's case, and restrained it from continuing with arbitration last week.

The court noted that IPL derived media rights from BCCI and it was not a party to arbitration in Singapore.

"Brushing aside such a vital party and taking the matter out of the purview of the Indian courts would have serious consequences," the court said.

"Ultimately, how television rights are dealt with by BCCI and who are the beneficiaries of the deals of BCCI and whether the officers of BCCI had any involvement therein are matters which must be known to the cricketing public," the judges said.

"They will be known only if there is no confidentiality in the trial," the High Court said.

"The funds involved are in relation to the rights of BCCI because it is the BCCI which organises the tournament. If the answers to the issues raised (by MSM) are to be given that should only be at an open trial where the public has an access," the court said.

"Ultimately, the finances, funds and rights of BCCI are in issue," the court said.

The High Court also referred to Supreme Court's observation in an earlier case that "Cricket in India is the most popular game...When India plays in international fora, it attracts the attention of millions of people."

As per the facilitation agreement, WSG was to transfer IPL media rights to MSM for Rs 425 crore. Later, BCCI took the stand that this agreement was void, because WSG did not have rights at that point.

BCCI also alleged that Lalit Modi, suspended IPL commissioner, kept it in the dark about this.

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