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IPL: No court relief for MSM India over TV rights issue
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The Bombay High Court on Monday denied to grant any relief to Multi Screen Media (formerly, Sony Entertainment Television), in the IPL telecast rights row on a technicality that it had failed to join World Sports Group (Mauritius) as a party in the case filed in court.

Sony had dragged the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to court challenging its move to enter into a contract with Mauritius-based World Sports Group (WSG) after terminating its agreement with Sony on IPL broadcasting rights in the country.

Justice SJ Kathawala on Monday directed Sony to make WSG (Mauritius) a party to the petition and scheduled the next hearing for March 30. The judge noted that BCCI had already entered into an agreement with WSG and any relief granted to Sony would directly affect the interests and rights of WSG, which has not been made party to the case.

BCCI had faxed the termination notice to Sony's Singapore office on March 14 (Saturday) at 10.44 pm (Singapore time). The Judge prime facie accepted Sony's argument that the termination notice issued by BCCI on March 14 (Saturday) came into effect on March 16 (Monday).

"I am inclined to accept the argument that giving notice would mean and include receipt of notice," Justice Kathawala noted in the judgment.

After serving Sony the termination notice, BCCI had signed a fresh agreement with WSG (Mauritius) at 3 am on March 15. The judge noted that with this agreement the transfer of rights in favour of WSG (Mauritius) was complete and absolute. Thus it was necessary that WSG be given a chance to be heard as any relief granted to Sony would directly affect its rights.

BCCI had claimed that poor quality of match broadcast during the 2008 IPL season was the primary reason for terminating the agreement with Sony. BCCI also alleged that insertion of graphics and advertisements by Sony led to blocking of view of play during telecast.

BCCI counsel Virag Tulzapurkar and Venkatesh Dhond also argued that MSM had committed breach of contract on two aspects, leading BCCI to terminate it. While one of the reasons was that MSM decided to award the on-air sponsorship for the 2009 season to Bharti Airtel, it had ignored BCCI's ongoing negotiation with Reliance Big TV, which had the first right of refusal for it.

Currently, it is learnt that there are two broadcasters in the fray – NDTV Group and ESPN Star Sports – contending for the exclusive broadcast rights of the IPL. According to informed sources, NDTV is the front runner, although officials at NDTV declined to comment on this. BCCI officials also could not be reached for comments.

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