Zee Telefilms & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.

After BCCI cancelled telecasting rights of Zee Telefilms and the latter filed a writ petition, a question arose regarding maintainability of the petition. On reading this case analysis you will learn that it was held that the petition was not maintainable since BCCI was not covered by Article 12.
CITATION(2005) 4 SCC 649
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice N. Santosh Hegde, Justice S.N. Variava, Justice B.P. Singh, Justice H.K. Sema, Justice S.B. Sinha
DATE OF JUDGEMENT02.02.2005

Introduction

Governmental functions are increasing day by day. The government may not be able to directly perform all the functions by itself. Hence, private bodies perform the functions of the Government on behalf of it. The question is whether all private bodies performing public functions operate directly under the control of the Government or do they hold monopoly status. If they are directly controlled by the Government, they fall within the ambit of ‘State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution of India and if they are not directly controlled by the Government, they fall outside the ambit of Article 12, which creates ambiguity.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: Zee Telefilms Ltd. is a sports channel that has subscribers throughout the World. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had cancelled telecast rights granted to Zee, in an arbitrary fashion. The board cancelled the entire tender process to determine telecasting rights for all matches played in between 2004 to 2008. The petitioner, Zee Telefilms Ltd. approached the Hon’ble Court under Article 32 against BCCI regarding the cancellation of telecasting rights.

Issues

The main issues in the case were:

  1. Whether or not the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12?
  2. Whether or not the writ petition filed under Article 32 by Zee Telefilms Ltd. against the BCCI is maintainable? 

Contentions by Zee Telefilms Pvt. Ltd.

  1. It was contended that cricket is a very popular game in the country and BCCI is the body, which regulates and controls it. It is the monopoly body that controls the sport for the Government. Since it selects players who represent the country abroad, it is virtually functioning like an indirect body of the Government itself;
  2. Even though the Board may not be formed under a statute, the power it exercises has the origin from legislative entries and thus its actions are entitled to be State actions;
  3. The Board has the power to ban players and take disciplinary action against them. This right directly affects the fundamental rights of the players hence its actions should be regulated and limited similarly like a State action. The board even has the power to nominate cricketers for the Arjuna Awards; and,
  4. Since it is capable of performing all the functions which can even affect the fundamental rights of the citizens, BCCI should fall within the expression of “other authorities” under Article 12 of the Constitution.

Contentions by BCCI

  1. BCCI is an autonomous body whose functions and powers are limited only to its members and is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act. It is a private organization which aims to promote the sport of cricket. Its rules and regulations are not derived from any statute and is an independent organization;
  2. BCCI is financially independent and does not receive any grants or allowances from the government. Thus, the writ petition was not maintainable against it as it not a statutory body;
  3. The Counsel further contended that the impact of bringing an organization like BCCI under the purview of state in Article 12 would be detrimental to very functioning of the government and judiciary. This would mean that all the national sports federations as well as other organizations that represent India in the field of art, culture, beauty competitions, music or dance events, science competitions etc. would be brought under ‘State’ in Article 12 of the Constitution. This will result in a large number of pending suits before the Courts;
  4. If any player of the board is disqualified or banned from the sport, then the player approaching the Court for enforcement of fundamental rights will not be appreciable as it would affect the standard of the game. This means that the day to day functioning of the Board will be affected. Hence, the board should not be included within the purview of state under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution.

Summary of court decision and judgement

In the present case, the Apex Court of the country ruled that BCCI does not fall within the ambit of Article 12. For the same reason, it was held that the writ petition was not maintainable and it was accordingly dismissed.

Analysis

The intention of the Constitution makers in enacting Article 12 was that any authority created by law and which has the power to make laws, rules and regulations will be included in the expression ‘other authorities’ under Article 12 of the Constitution of India.

In the landmark case of Rajasthan SEB vs. Mohan Lal[1], this Hon’ble Court held that the term “other authorities” was wide enough to include every authority created by a statute by which powers were carried by governmental or quasi-governmental functions within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India. Subsequently, in Sukhdev Singh vs. Bhagatram Sardar Singh Raghuvanshi,[2] the Court held that bodies like Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Industrial Finance Corporation, Life Insurance Corporation will fall within the ambit of Article 12 as they perform governmental functions.

Yet, a contrary view was taken in Sabhajit Tewary vs. Union of India[3] that bodies that do not perform important state functions will not come under Article 12 of the Constitution. Finally, the law was settled in Pradeep Kumar Biswas vs. Indian Institute of Chemical Technology[4]by a constitutional bench of seven-judges. The bench concluded the debate by holding that if a body is financially, functionally and administratively controlled by the Government, if the control is not merely regulatory in nature, then it would fall within the scope of other authorities under Article 12.

In the present case as well, with reference to the judgment of Pradeep Kumar Biswas it becomes clear that BCCI enjoys monopoly status and is not created by any statute. It is a financially independent body and is not directly controlled by the Government. Hence, the Court’s decision that BCCI is not a body under “other authorities” of Article 12 was correct. Thus, the present writ petition under Article 32 was clearly not maintainable for the enforcement of fundamental rights.

Conclusion

Through this case, the Court has clearly defined the term ‘other authorities’ under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. The term ‘State’ has to be clearly defined so as to see what it constitutes and what it does not. A writ petition for the enforcement of fundamental rights can be maintainable only against a statutory body, financially independent which is directly controlled by the Government. The Court concluded that a body which is merely regulated by the Government or which performs public duties itself does not make it an authority within the ambit of Article 12 of the Constitution.


[1] AIR 1967 S.C. 1857.

[2] 1975 1 SCC 421.

[3] (1975) 3 SCR 616.

[4] (2002 5 SCC 111).