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LAW BEFORE WICKET

The ongoing controversy about Indian cricket players and their contracts has taken on bizarre dimensions. A public interest litigation was filed in the Delhi High Court by Kapil Dev, Madan Lal, Mr Siddhartha Sankar Ray, Mr Ram Babu Gupta and Mr S.K.Bansal. The petitioners form an interesting panel comprising as it does of two eminent cricketers, one politician and two international umpires. They appealed to the court to remove obstacles towards fielding the best Indian team for the forthcoming World Cup. The Indian players, it will be recalled, had objected to terms in their contract that restrict them from endorsing non-official sponsors during the World Cup as well as specific periods before and after the tournament. The petitioners should be happy with the courtís ruling which tries to ensure the participation of the best Indian players. It does so by imposing restrictions on the flow of foreign exchange and by prohibiting telecast of advertisements featuring the official sponsors if the International Crikcet Council bars Indian players from playing. The matter is by no means resolved since further legal steps will definitely follow. Notwithstanding this, the judgement is important not for the way it affects the World Cup but for other reasons.

What advertisements will be shown is the decision of the channel carrying the telecast. There can be no dispute about this unless the advertisements offend certain types of sensibilities. But even this should be a last resort. In a democracy there can be no legal fiat on this. The sponsors have done nothing wrong, they are only insisting on the terms that were agreed upon. Similarly, the remittance of foreign exchange from India has specific guidelines and conditions. These have reduced after liberalization. Remittances cannot be stopped because India could not field the best cricket team. The regulation of foreign exchange transactions was never determined by such chauvinistic consideration even in the worst phase of Indian socialism.

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