ESPN alleges Zee of withholding facts from court

Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The Private ESPN sports channel charged Zee Telefilms with fraud, for allegedly withholding facts from the Madras High Court.

Arguing on a petition filed by Zee, challenging the cancellation of the tender process for providing telecasting rights for international cricket matches, ESPN counsel, senior advocate Iqbal Chagla alleged that Zee, in its petition, had failed to mention that a Special Leave Petition filed by it for telecasting matches was still pending in Supreme Court.

"Not mentioning this is nothing short of fraud," the advocate claimed.On Zee's contention that ESPN had raised the question of Zee's eligibility in the Bombay High Court in September after its tender for telecasting rights was accepted by the BCCI, he pointed out that on August 16, ESPN had shot off a letter to the Board, questioning Zee's eligibility to be accorded the telecasting rights, as it did not possess the requisite two years experience of telecasting international cricket matches, among other things.

Denying Zee's claim that the tender process had concluded, Chagla contended that according to its reply to the letter of intent sent by BCCI to it, Zee had stated that the Board's letter did not contain all the points the two had and had even mentioned that it was open for further discussion.

He claimed Zee had also filed a petition in the Apex Court on January 11 last for grant of rights to telecast the ensuing Indo-Pakistan cricket series.

Appearing on behalf of former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmia, senior advocate Somiyaji pointed out that according to the tender conditions, the Board had the prerogative to hold discussions with any of the bidders and also terminate the tender process.

He pointed out that after the tenders were opened, the marketing committee had called ESPN the second highest bidder with $230 million for discussions and asked the channel if it could raise its offer. ESPN raised it to $308 million.

Zee, which had bid $260 million, was then called and asked if it could match the $308 million. And it had agreed, he said, adding that later the tender process was cancelled, as Zee moved the Bombay High Court.

He also referred to Zee's reply to the letter of intent sent by the Board, which clearly showed that the tender process had not concluded, but was still in the negotiating stage.

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