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State bouncer hooked

New Delhi, Feb. 2: It's official now ' Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly play for the cricket board, not the Indian government.

The Supreme Court today ruled that under the Constitution, the BCCI ' cricket's apex body in the country ' could not be considered a 'state', a crucial element in the board's legal tussle over telecast rights with Zee Telefilms. Therefore, it cannot be sued for alleged violation of fundamental rights.

The court dismissed the writ petitions Zee had filed last year against the board's decision to cancel the bidding process for telecast rights after accepting the advance the channel paid to cover all cricket matches in India over the next four years. The five-judge Constitution bench, however, said the 'aggrieved' party can approach a high court for any contractual violation.

A Zee spokesman said the channel was 'seeking legal advice and would move high court in a day or two'.

Justice N. Santosh Hegde, who wrote the 3:2 majority judgment, said not only the BCCI but 'none of the other federations or (sports) bodies can be considered as a state for the purpose of Article 12'.

According to Article 12, the state 'includes' the government, Parliament and the legislature of each state and 'all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India'. Zee had wanted the BCCI to be declared a state under the 'other authorities'.

But the judges said: 'There seems to be no need to further expand the scope of 'other authorities' in Article 12 by judicial interpretation at least for the time being'.

The bench also held that 'merely because a non-governmental body exercises some public duty, that by itself would not suffice to make such body a state for the purpose of Article 12'.

The bench said there is no existence of pervasive state control over the board. The control, if any, is only regulatory in nature and not specifically exercised under any special statute. The BCCI, it added, was also discharging its functions as an autonomous body.

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