SC refuses to direct BCCI to e-auction IPL broadcast rights

As many as 24 companies have so far purchased bid documents to get broadcast rights for the cash-rich Twenty20 competition.

The apex court, on July 28, had asked the COA to file an affidavit specifying how the ongoing tender process for IPL broadcast rights was better than the e-auction process.   -  K.R. Deepak

The Supreme Court today refused to direct BCCI to conduct e-auctioning of the rights of internet, television and mobile broadcast of the T-20 Indian Premier League (IPL) for five years from 2018.

As many as 24 companies, including Star India and Sony Pictures Network, have so far purchased bid documents to get broadcast rights which are expected to fetch an unprecedented amount of over Rs 20,000 crore for the richest cricket board.

The broadcast rights are divided into three categories - TV, mobile and internet. The deadline for submission of sealed bids is September 4.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra , Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chadrachud considered the reply filed by the Committee of Administrators (COA) favouring the ongoing auctioning process to award the media rights, rejecting the plea of BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy that e-auction be held instead.

Senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for the COA headed by former CAG Vinod Rai, said the ongoing tender process was a better option as all the bidders put their best bids in a sealed envelope to get the media rights.

Swamy said he would file an interim application highlighting the alleged collusion and conflict of interest on behalf of the IPL chairperson who also runs a channel. This plea was allowed by the top court.

The IPL matches are scheduled to start in April next year and the broadcast rights would be awarded for a period of five years from 2018 to 2022.

The IPL governing council at its meeting held on July 11 had evaluated the ITT (invitation to tender) for the IPL media rights and reconfirmed that the existing BCCI tender process was the best approach, both in terms of absolute transparency and free and fair price discovery, the BCCI had said.

The apex court, on July 28, had asked the COA to file an affidavit specifying how the ongoing tender process was better than the e-auction process.

The apex court had last month told the BJP leader that it would think over his plea to accord urgent hearing in the case after Swamy referred to the apex court verdicts to buttress his point that it has been held that auctioning was the best method of awarding contracts.

He had said that the amount involved in the award of IPL media rights was to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore and the issue should not be decided in an “opaque” manner.

“This petition prays that the distribution of IPL rights, which is scheduled on July 17, 2017 should be done in the most transparent mode available that is via e-auction,” his petition had said.

It had alleged that all activities of BCCI were undertaken with “tacit” concurrence of the state governments and the Centre “who are not only fully aware but supportive of the activities of the Board.”

“It is a requirement that non-discriminatory and transparent method with the best international practices must be adopted for distribution of the valuable media rights so as to ensure the maximum revenue in the larger national interest,” Swamy had said in his plea.

He had alleged that there was a consistent attempt by vested interests to try and build a monopoly by getting the valuable rights in a non-transparent manner.

“Huge money is involved amounting to Rs 25000-30000 crore in the valuable rights associated with the game of cricket in India which makes it mandatory to have the auction process robust, completely transparent, in order to maximise revenue and prevent vested interests from making undue gains,” Swamy had alleged.

Referring to Justice R M Lodha committee recommendations, the plea had said the panel had made strong comments about the BCCI’s tender process and the methods previously adopted by cricket administrators in granting licences in relation to media and television rights.

“Lodha Committee has found that clear principles of transparency should be laid down and BCCI’s website and office should carry out all rules, regulations and office orders of the BCCI in this regard, and there should be full transparency of all tenders floated and bids invited by or on behalf of the BCCI,” it said.

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