Centre backs Zee stand on writ against BCCI

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Separate legal moves at different courts in the country today are together posing the most serious threat to the untrammeled authority Jagmohan Dalmiya has enjoyed over the affairs of Indian cricket board these past few years.

Zee Telefilms, embroiled in a cricket telecast rights case in the Supreme Court, today found an ally in the Indian government, which described the Indian cricket board as a 'state' under the terms of Article 12. This move, however, has upset the cricket board.

Arguments continued today in the apex court --- and will do so again tomorrow --- on whether a Zee petition, challenging cancellation of a tendering process by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is maintainable or not and whether the cricket board can be termed a 'state'.

Making his submission before a five-judge constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, appearing for the Centre, argued that the board came within the purview of the definition of 'state' under Article 12 of the Constitution.

At the other end of the country, meanwhile, a Chennai court, in an order issued this morning, has restrained till 11 October the BCCI's confirming the appointment of Dalmiya, who is its outgoing president, as patron-in-chief of the world's richest cricket board. Dalmiya was appointed the first ever patron-in-chief of the BCCI at a special meeting on 12 September.


While this was seen as a setback for him, later in the day Dalmiya scored a far bigger victory. Over the Maharashtra political heavyweight and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar no less. Elections to decide who would succeed Dalmiya as the cricket board president held in Kolkata ended with a 15:15 tie. Dalmiya who had the casting vote in case of such a tie voted in favour of his nominee, Haryana Cricket Association president Ranbir Singh Mahendra. The elections were held after a seven-hour delay.

Mahendra (or should one say Dalmiya) hardly had time to savour the victory however, when the news came that Pawar would be challenging the way the election was conducted in court. Addressing the media after the elections, Pawar accused Dalmiya of "hijacking" the election process to ensure that Mahendra won.

Coming back to the action in the Supreme Court, the Union Government sprang a surprise on the BCCI when it supported Zee on the issue of maintainability of its petition in the cricket rights case by stating that the Board was a 'state' within the framework of constitutional provisions.

According to agency reports, the Centre's changing stance on whether BCCI is an instrument of the state or a private body for organising and managing the game of cricket irked the latter and this was conveyed to the court by its counsel KK Venugopal.

Venugopal told the court that the government was taking a contradictory stand on the issue. He said while in its affidavit filed before the Delhi high court in a cricket- related case, it had taken the stand that the BCCI was an organ of the state (the time when former cricketer Ajay Jadeja was contesting a ban by BCCI after match-fixing allegations), in an another affidavit filed in the Bombay High Court in the ESPN-Star petition, the Central government had taken the stand that BCCI was a private body.

Additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, appearing for the Centre, told the bench, also including Justices SN Variava, BP Singh, HK Sema and SB Sinha, that the government could not be forced to restrict its arguments to a particular level, news agencies reported. He said the government was free to go beyond the contents of its affidavits filed in the high courts of Delhi and Mumbai.

The Central government will file a written submission on the matter tomorrow.

Even as Dalmiya girds for legal battle on three different fronts (Zee's writ, his elevation as cricket board patron-in-chief and the BCCI poll outcome), one thing is certain. The man who seems to thrive on a good scrap is not likely to give an inch and seems clearly set to wage an all or nothing fight to protect what he seems to view as his personal fiefdom - the richest cricket board on the planet.

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