New Delhi, Jan. 24: The Supreme Court today fixed January 31 for hearing a petition by LG Electronics challenging Delhi High Court’s interim order in the International Cricket Council contract controversy.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice V.N. Khare and Justices S.B. Sinha and A.R. Lakshmanan, however, did not give any interim order nor any stay on the petition. The date was fixed to hear the admissibility of the petition, which could be either dismissed or admitted for further hearing.
LG’s petition challenges the revenue and foreign exchange aspect of the judgment of Delhi High Court, which had held that no foreign exchange should go out of the country to the ICC if the Indian team is barred from playing the World Cup at South Africa.
LG contended that the high court had no jurisdiction to entertain the case as the dispute fell squarely within contractual obligations.
In its January 22 order, the high court directed the Union government and the Reserve Bank of India that no foreign exchange — either sponsorship money or damages paid by the Board of Control for Cricket in India — should be released to ICC if it barred the Indian team from playing the cup. No foreign exchange should be remitted for the official Cup sponsors if either the BCCI or the Indian players are penalised by the ICC, it added. This would hinder the sponsors, including LG, from advertising during the mega event.
LG contended that as BCCI had “invoked an arbitration clause and the matter is pending before the Swiss court of arbitration”, the high court had no jurisdiction to entertain the PIL, that too by former BCCI chairman N.K.P. Salve, cricketers Kapil Dev and Madan Lal and former Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who had no jurisdiction to file the case.
The company said it had already spent over Rs 300 crore and the PIL in the high court was “instigated” by its competitor and “aided” by the BCCI.
The controversy is over cricketers endorsing products of non-official sponsors of the World Cup. ICC objects to this, saying it would amount to a violation of its contract. A PIL was filed in the high court in the “interest of cricket and Indian players”.
“LG Electronics is a global partner of ICC and has a valid, existing and concerned contract for which it has paid lawful and valuable consideration to the extent of approximately Rs 40 crore and is obliged to pay further amounts from time to time,” the petition filed in the apex court said.
LG has acquired commercial and marketing rights for not only this World Cup but also for global cricketing events and championships, including the next World Cup, over five years starting from 2002, the petition said.
LG Electronics India, today strongly favoured a compromise between the BCCI and the ICC to settle the contracts row, according to an agency report.
“ICC and BCCI must compromise nicely looking at cricket first,” said K.R. Kim, managing director of LG Electronics India Ltd, which has signed up a five-year $25 million sponsorship contract with ICC.
Globally, Kim said, cricket is losing ground and “we must not hasten it”.