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Delhi HC directs Stracon India to pay Rs 7.31 crore to DD for Sharjah Cup 1999

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has affirmed that Stracon India Ltd owes a sum of Rs 7.31 crore to Prasar Bharati towards revenue earned for the Sharjah Cup 1999 between India and Pakistan.

Although an arbitrator had announced an award and a single judge had given a decision, the matter came before a division bench because of an appeal by Stracon India.

Dismissing the appeal, Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta in their order of 14 March 2016 made available to indiantelevision.com today noted that: “If the learned Arbitrator who authored the award dated 14 March 2014 or the learned Single Judge who has pronounced the decision dated 1 October 2014 had been clear in their reasoning, a simple issue would not have seen so complicated.”

The Court noted that the Arbitrator had awarded Rs 7.31 crores. However, the judges regretted that the Arbitrator had not done the simple analysis of the pleadings but “left the award with the pleadings being simply noted”.

The Court said: “In this context it assumes importance that the appellant had issued cheque No.945977 on 20 May 1999 in sum of Rs 7.31 crores which was dishonoured when Prasar Bharati presented the same for realization”.

Prasar Bharati and Stracon India had entered into an agreement on 5 June 1997 whereby Stracon became the accredited agent for Prasar Bharati concerning Doordarshan Commercial Service. Stracon was to be paid commission of 15 percent. It had a credit facility of between 45 days to 60 days. Indo-Pak one day test series was to be held between 7 April and 16 April 1999 in Sharjah, popularly known as the Sharjah Cup. Pertaining to the Sharjah Cup, an agreement of 22 January 1999 having therein an arbitration clause was executed between the parties.

But the World Cup had to be held in May of the same year. Another party, Nimbus, obtained an order in its favour from the Bombay High Court in this regard.

However by that time, certain amounts realized by Stracon concerning the World Cup from advertisers had been credited in an account maintained with Canara Bank, the benefit whereof was taken by Prasar Bharati together with the liabilities concerning the amounts. Amounts realized by Stracon from the Sharjah Cup and expenses incurred were credited and debited in the same account. In other words, amounts relating to both the World Cup and the Sharjah Cup were credited in the same account and amounts paid out were debited in the same account.

When the matter went for arbitration, Prasar Bharati claimed Rs 7,52,44,234 as the licence fee, Rs 3,33,50,000 towards withholding tax, Rs 3,48,16,159 towards revenue sharing, and Rs 3,56,01,813 towards opportunity cost as relating to the Sharjah Cup.

The Arbitrator award rejected the later three claims on account of no proof. Thus, the Delhi High Court only confined its order to the sum of Rs 7,31,00,000. In any case, even Prasar Bharati counsel Rajeev Sharma conceded that any claim pertaining to the World Cup could not be the subject matter of the arbitration proceedings.

The bank statement also showed that a sum of Rs 26,75,45,007 was realized by the appellant from third parties and the expenses are admittedly Rs 34,27,89,241 and even counsel on both sides did not dispute the correctness of the statement of account.

The court said this meant that “one has to simply bifurcate the amounts concerning the World Cup and the Sharjah Cup and ignore the amounts concerning the World Cup and focus only on the amounts concerning the Sharjah Cup.”

Prasar Bharati claimed that the deposits Rs 12,54,00,000 was for the World Cup and thus for the Sharjah event the amount would be Rs 14,21,45,007 after deducting the World Cup amount from the total of Rs 26,75,45,007. The outgoing for the Sharjah event was Rs 21,52,52,641 and this would mean the amount payable to Prasar Bharati is Rs 7,31,07,634 after deducting the sum of Rs 14,21,45,007 from Rs 21,52,52,641.

But the court said: “It is trite that of various kinds of admissions made by a party, the strongest admission against a party is the one made in a pleading.

The Court said: “There is a clear admission of the pleadings in first paragraph 11 of the Statement of Claim. As regards the second paragraph, the denial is vague and has to be treated as an admission because we do not find anything in the preliminary submissions wherefrom it can be deduced that as per the appellant it denied the bifurcation as pleaded by the respondent in the second paragraph numbered as 11 in the Statement of Claim."

The judgment said this admission is fortified from the pleading in paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim and its corresponding reply filed by the appellant. Thus, it is apparent that there is an admission of Rs 14,21,45,007 being towards the Sharjah event.

The court said: “The evasive denial means as admission of the fact pleaded in para 15 of the Statement of Claim that the total outgoing for the Sharjah event was Rs 21,52,52,641. If this be so, the destination is apparent. Deduct Rs 14,21,45,007 from said amount and we have the figure Rs 7,31,07,634.”

On the subject of limitation, the court said “we concur with the view taken by the learned Arbitrator that as long as the parties discussed the issue and till when a clear denial of the liability came from the mouth of the appellant limitation would not commence.”

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