SC to hear IPL media rights e-auction arguments on Aug 22

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has set on August 22 to hear arguments on a petition moved by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking e-auctioning of media rights of the Indian Premier League. 

For the record, 24 August is the last date given by the BCCI for purchase of its Invitation To Tender (ITT) document and 28 August is when the bids are supposed to be opened and the winning bidders announced.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar has asked the BCCI to file its reply within two weeks and fixed the hearing for just six days before the tender process concludes. 

Swamy argued that e-auction of the media rights should be done to ensure transparency, as it is to be given for the next five years.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the board, said that the tender process has been approved by Vinod Rai, chairman of the apex court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA).

Singhvi said the e-auction process was not possible as the auction process has already started and will conclude next month and that the court should not interfere with the process.

The Bench also asked senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for CoA in the main BCCI matter pending before the court, to assist it in the case.

Singhvi could have also pointed out that e-auctioning has not been followed in selling ANY of the world's biggest sports properties. Maybe he will raise that point

while presenting his arguments at the August 22 hearing.

Swamy had referred to the apex court verdicts to buttress his point that auctioning is the best method of awarding contracts.

During the arguments, Swamy stressed that e-auctioning is the best way and said that IPL media rights was to the tune of Rs30,000 crore (Rs300 billion) and the issue should not be decided in an "opaque" manner. “It is a requirement that transparent method with the best international practices must be adopted for distribution of the valuable media rights so as to ensure the maximum revenue in the larger national interest.”

Ironically, Swamy's arguments have been built around CoA chairman Vinod Rai's adverse report when he was the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the issue of licenses and allocation of 2G Spectrum by the previous UPA government.  

Now Rai, wearing his new hat as CoA chief, will have to explain to the apex court why an e-auction is not best suited to sell the media rights of the IPL.

On the BCCI's part, the board is quite clear that e-auctioning is not the best way to realise full value out of the IPL media rights. As an official told Times of India: "If transparency is what everybody is looking for, then there's international agency Deloitte and law firm Amarchand Mangaldas looking into it. That aside, there'll be a team looking into the technical aspect of the bid. The bids will be opened in front of the media with all levels of scrutiny in place."