In a first, the Supreme Court ordered corporate entities on Friday to deposit money for an early hearing of their dispute that pertains to rights over cricket-match information.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur directed Star India and BCCI to make a pre-deposit of Rs 50 lakh each, noting corporate cases were consuming a lot of judicial time. “People file cases and take chances here without realising what will happen,” the bench said.
It asked three respondents - Idea Cellular, Akuate Internet and OnMobile Global - to together deposit Rs 50 lakh, rejecting their contention that they should not be penalised for defending the case.
The order came a day after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi floated the idea of charging pre-deposits in corporate cases. Opposing the creation of National Courts of Appeal in four regions, Rohatgi had on Thursday said the top court should adopt a self-regulatory mechanism to reduce the pendency. There are 60,000 cases awaiting a final decision. There are 26 judges including the CJI in SC against the sanctioned strength of 31. During the hearing, Justice Thakur noted it was not feasible to increase the judges’ strength because it would create more confusion.
When Star India’s 2013 appeal against a Delhi High Court came up for hearing, the CJI wasted no time to implement Rohatgi’s suggestion. He first asked the parties how much they were willing to deposit.
The counsel resisted the proposal, prompting the bench to remark: “It should be ideally 10 times the fees charged by you (senior advocates) for one hearing… it should be one crore (rupees) since you take 10 lakh (rupees).”
The bench then said corporate matters were taking a lot of time. “You must make some payment. We will hear your case only after that,” it said.
After senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Star India, suggested Rs 25 lakh, the court finally settled for Rs 50 lakh. It gave both parties four weeks’ time to make the deposit with SC registry and said the case will be heard in July subject to the payment made.
In its appeal before the SC, Star India has contended that since it had paid for exclusive media rights to BCCI, others should not be allowed to disseminate contemporaneous information. The HC had declined the broadcaster’s plea that it amounted to interfering with Star’s prospects of monetising it.
There is no indication of what purpose this money would be put to, but typically court collections can be spent on pro bono services, providing free legal aid to litigants who cannot afford the expenses, etc.