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Zee Telefilms v. Union of India (2005) 4 SCC 649

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  • In this case, the question was whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was “State” within the meaning of Article 12.
  • The Court observed that BCCI is not created by a statute, not dominated by the Government of India either financially, functionally or administratively, and held that BCCI cannot be called a State under Article 12 of the Constitution of India, 1950.


  • BCCI is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975.
  • Zee Telefilms, (the first petitioner), in this case, is a world-renowned sports channel. The respondents include the Union of India; BCCI, the regulating body for Cricket in India; ESPN.
  • On 7th August 2004, BCCI invited tenders for the auction of exclusive telecast rights for 4 years, for which both Zee and ESPN have given their biddings.
  • After negotiations with both the bidders, BCCI accepted Zee’s bidding, worth US $260,756,756.76. Zee deposited a sum of Rs 92.50 crores equivalent to US $20 million, agreeing to the terms and conditions, in the State Bank of Travancore.
  • However, later the Board terminated the contract of the First Petitioner.
  • The board stated that the security in the form of a bank guarantee and/or money deposited by Zee Telefilms Ltd. is returned immediately.
  • Hence, Zee Telefilms Ltd. approached the Supreme Court against BCCI regarding the cancellation of telecasting rights stating the decision to be arbitrary and hence violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950.

Issues Involved

  • Whether BCCI a “State” within the ambit of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution of India?
  • Whether the arbitrary action of BCCI violate the fundamental rights of Zee?
  • Whether writ petition against Board of Control for Cricket in India is maintainable?

Ratio Decidendi

  • The court observed that BCCI, though it enjoyed the monopoly status over the cricket control, the state does not give this monopoly, nor does the state protect such monopoly through any statute.
  • The court also finds that BCCI is financially independent of the state, nor does the state hold any share in the board.
  • With all these observations, the court finds no point in dealing with the contention that the respondents violated the petitioner’s fundamental rights.
  • Only Justice Sinha gave the dissenting opinion that the board acted as a representative of the Government of India before the international community, and hence a State.


  • Based on the observations mentioned above of the financial, administrative, and statutory autonomy of BCCI, it is not a “State” within the meaning of “other bodies” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India.
  • Hence, there is no question of the petitioner’s fundamental rights being arbitrarily violated by BCCI.


  • Through this 5-judge bench, the Supreme Court has re-iterated the previous, well-settled rulings in Sabhajit Tewary v. UOI (1975); Pradeep Kumar Biswas v. Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (2002), clarifying all the ambiguity regarding the interpretation of “state” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India.


Article 12 states that, in this part (Part III), unless the context otherwise requires, the State includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.