?Companies providing through text messages and online updates the live scores of international cricket matches, for which Star India has exclusive rights, have been asked by the Supreme Court to deposit Rs.10 lakh per match.
The interim order was issued in response to a plea by Star India. The broadcaster took Idea Cellular Ltd, OnMobile Global Ltd and cricket website CricBuzz.com to court first in October 2012 for providing minute-by-minute updates on cricket matches. Star India argued that it had the sole “rights over all information emanating from cricketing events as the organizer and promoter of that sport in India”.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, the apex cricket body in India, had supported Star India’s claim in the court. In March, the Delhi high court clamped down on the companies providing live updates of cricket matches for which Star India had exclusive rights.
The companies then appealed to a division bench of the Delhi high court. In an order passed on 30 August, the division bench of justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Najmi Waziri said “such an injunction would tend to insidiously, and in a creeping manner, denude the fundamental right to free speech and dissemination of topical information to members of the public.”
The Supreme Court’s interim order, however, directed both parties to maintain status quo as per the March order passed by the single judge of the Delhi high court which went in favour of Star India. It asked them to deposit Rs.10 lakh per match with the court before disseminating such live scores. The court also clarified that a match would include a test match, a one-day match as well as a T-20 match. It also directed the firms to maintain accounts of the revenues with respect to the SMS alerts that they provide to the subscribers, and to deposit the account with the court each month.
“The interim order is a testament to the fact that the honourable Supreme Court sees merit in Star India’s argument on mobile and digital rights,” said Nitin Kukreja, president (sports) at Star India.
Star India paid Rs.3,851 crore in 2012 for the exclusive media rights to cricket matches organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) until 2018. The rights cover all international cricket matches played in India and domestic tournaments, including the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup. In all, Star has the exclusive rights for 96 matches, including updates on the Internet and mobile phones.