The Kerala High Court on Wednesday permitted Doordarshan to telecast the three match one-day cricket series between India and Bangladesh commencing at Chittagong tomorrow.
In an interim order, a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice B Subashan Reddy and Justice Kurian Joseph, directed ESPN, which has the exclusive rights of the series, to telecast the series through the Doordarshan channel concerned on revenue sharing basis (80 per cent to ESPN and 20 per cent to Doordarshan).
The interim order was issued keeping the writ petition pending as counters of Union Government, Prasar Bharati and Telecom Authority of India have not yet been filed and that appeals filed against the orders of Madras and Bombay High Courts relating to telecast of Indo-Pak series are still pending before the Supreme Court.
The directions were issued on the writ petition filed by two petitioners including S Ramesh, former Kerala Ranji cricket captain, seeking a direction to Doordarshan to telecast the Indo-Bangladesh cricket series.
The Bench also directed Doordarshan to exhibit the logo of ESPN and the advertisements which it had committed for the one-day series.
The Court pointed out that Doordarshan is willing to telecast the one-day series on a revenue sharing basis of 80:20 and the same had been followed in the cricket series played in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
"There is no reason as to why the same arrangement cannot be made for this one-day series also," the Bench held.
The final rates can be settled as may be determined by the legal principles to be stated by the Supreme Court in pending matters from Madras and Bombay High Courts, they said.
The petitioners had contended that telecasting was a facet of fundamental right to speech and expression guaranteed under Art 19(1) of the Constitution and Union government, Telecom Authority of India and Prasar Bharati (1,2 and 3 respondents respectively) have a duty to fulfil that fundamental right to enable all the citizens in India to view the matches.
The stand of ESPN, the fourth respondent, was that there is no fundamental right to view the cricket match and that it (ESPN) was not amenable to writ jurisdiction under Art 226 of the constitution. The channel had maintained that it had purchased rights of telecasting from a foreign country for Rs 50 crore for a five-year term and that it cannot be compelled by any legal means to part with its telecasting rights.
"In the electronic media, the concept of broadcasting has to be understood in broad sense of including rights of both broadcaster and viewers and whenever there is a clash of interest, the fundamental rights of viewers takes primacy," the Bench held.
"Broadcaster's fundamental right has to be read coupled with that of viewers and in the instant case, we have to balance the professional rights of ESPN with that of the larger fundamental right of the people of India," the Court held.
If the relief sought by the petitioners is granted, it would ensure that the people of India would enjoy their fundamental right of expression, they observed.
The judges also did not accept the ESPN Counsel Rakesh Munchal's contention that ESPN was not governed or covered by the provisions of the Indian Telegraphs Act, 1885 or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997.
The bench also did not agree that ESPN had any "uncontrolled and unfettered" right to telecast the India-Bangladesh cricket series through cable network in India.