Case Analysis: Zee Telefilms Ltd. v. Union Of India

Zee Telefilms Ltd. & Anr


Union of India & Ors.

CITATIONAIR 2005 SC2677, 2005 (1) SCALE 666, (2005) 4 SCC 649
CourtSupreme Court of India
BenchN. Santosh Hegde, B.P. Singh, H.K. Sema, S.B. Sinha and S.N. Variava, JJ.
PetitionerZee Telefilms Ltd. and Anr
RespondentUnion of India and Ors.
Acts concernedConstitution of India


 In the era of globalization, the enforcement of fundamental rights is a matter of concern as in this span of time the power has been given to private bodies within the state. With the emergence of world media system and corporate capitalism, sports is now considered as a global phenomenon. The globalization of sports has shifted the focus of legal regulations on to certain national and international sports federations which controls and governs international sports.

International Cricket Conference (ICC) and Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) controls and governs cricket as a sport. ICC regulates International Cricket whereas BCCI regulates cricket in India at all the levels beginning at the grass-root level, national level, international level and it also regulates private cricket i.e., Indian Premier League.[i]


The Board for Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has inscribed a non-transparent system for the selection of the Indian Cricket Team which is considered to be a highly secretive process. The words of the national selectors were final and binding which instead of fulfilling the dreams of the players has exhausted their hopeful dreams. Previously, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that BCCI is answerable on the standards applicable to judiciary review as it was a body discharging public function and is certainly amenable to the provisions relating to writ jurisdiction i.e., article 226 of the Constitution of India. In the past, as stated by a bench headed by T S Thakur that BCCI may not be “State” under article 12 of the Constitution. Thus, it was held that the sports federation does not come within the definition of “State” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India.

To bring in transparency and accountability in the sports administration and functioning, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in the year 2011 issued the National Sports Development Code of India  (NSCI) which comprises of the rules and regulations for the procedure to be followed for selecting the National team for a particular sports.

 Whether the BCCI or the sports federation will go along with the Sports Code or only the Writ Court can set in that direction is yet to be considered.


The question involved was whether the Board of Cricket for Control in India was ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12. The Board was not formed as part of the share capital held by the Government. It was also not created by any statute. There was practically no financial assistance given to the Board by the Government and even then the Board did enjoy a monopoly status in the field of cricket. The control, if any, was only regulatory in nature as applicable to other similar bodies. All the functions of the Board were not public functions nor they were closely related to governmental functions. The Board was not created by the transfer of a Government owned Corporation and was an autonomous body. The Board was not financially, functionally or administratively dominated by or under the control of Government so as to bring it within the expression ‘State’ in Article 12.


  1. Whether Writ Petition against Board of Control for Cricket in India is maintainable?
  2. Whether Board is a State within meaning of Art.12?

Related provisions:

  1. Article 12 (Constitution of India) – Definition
  2. Article 32 (Constitution of India) – Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part

Related cases:

Pradeep Kumar Biswas v. Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and Ors.[ii]

Held – A seven-judge Bench of the Court laid down the following tests for the purpose of determining the nature of activities which would make the body come within the definition of ‘State’ :

  • Formation of body;
  • Objects and functions;
  • Management and control;
  • Financial aid, etc.

The Court observed that:

“The Combination of State aid and furnishing of an important public service may result in a conclusion that the operation should be classified as a State agency. In finding a State action, the existence or non-existence of State financial aid might be irrelevant even if the give function is closely related to government or is of public importance. If the function does not fall within such a description, then mere addition of State money would not influence the conclusion.”

 Thus it was held that the Board cannot be construed as a State for the purpose of Article 12.

Ajay Hasia v. Khalid Mujib[iii]

Held – A society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1898, is an agency or instrumentality of the State and hence a ‘state’ within the meaning of Article 12. The government (State and Central) have full control of the working of the society. The enquiry has to be not as to how the juristic person is created but why it has been brought into existence. The corporation whether created by a statute or under a statute is immaterial to find.

Electricity Board, Rajasthan v. Mohan Lal[iv] and Sukhdev Singh v. Bhagatram[v]

A very restrictive interpretation of the expression ‘other authorities’ given by the court – only the authorities created by the Constitution or Statute are the ‘other authorities’, though it is necessary that the statutory authority should be engaged in performing governmental or sovereign functions. Thus, Rajasthan Electricity Board, Oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), Life Insurance Corporation, Industrial Finance Corporation, etc. Are held to be ‘other authorities’. These bodies have power to make bye-laws, regulations, etc. for regulating conditions of services of their employees. The employees are entitled to claim protection of Articles 14 and 16 against these bodies.

The ‘ONGC’ is a statutory body owned and managed by the Central Government. The structure of the ‘Life Insurance Corporation’ indicates that the government agency carrying on the business of life insurance is said to be corporation. The province of the ‘Industrial Corporation’ Act shows that the Corporation is in effect managed and controlled by the Central Government. The circumstances that the ‘Rajasthan Electricity Board’ under the Electricity Supply Act, is required to carry on some activities of the nature of trade or commerce does not give any manifestation before the Board that it must be excluded from the meaning within the scope of the word ‘State’.

In the subsequent decisions, the Supreme Court has given a broad and liberal interpretation to the expression ‘other authorities’.


The Supreme Court held that:

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ,a society registered under the provisions of Tamil Nadu Registration of Societies Act,1975 is not a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India but it is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of Article 226 of the Constitution in view of duties and functions performed by BCCI of public nature. The activities to be performed by the Board  are as under:

  1. It formulates rules, regulations, norms and standards covering all aspects of the game.
  2. It has power to disqualify the players which may at times put an end to the sporting career of the person.
  3. It spends crores of rupees on building and maintaining infrastructure like stadium, running of cricket academics and supporting State Association.
  4. It frames pension schemes and incurs expenditure on coaches and trainers etc.
  5. Collection of admission fees and the telecast and broadcast rights of the matches are sell by the Board.

To these activities, there is tacit approval of the State Government and Government of India. The State has not made or taken any steps to dilute the autonomy of the Board. Any organisation or entity that has such pervasive control over the game and it’s affairs and such powers as can make dreams end up in smoke or true cannot be said to be undertaking any private activity. The functions of the Board are clearly public functions till such time, the State intervenes to take over the same. Also, the Government of India has granted de-facto recognition to the Board and continues to so recognize the Board as the Apex National Body for regulating the game of Cricket in India. The  recognition granted by the Government of India made the Board able to represent itself as the Indian cricket team and  the team could not be able to present as the Indian cricket team in the international cricket arena if the board does not have got the recognition. The Board has to seek prior permission and approval from the Government of India whenever it has to travel outside the country to represent the country. Also,  in the year 2002 the Government had refused permission to the Board to play cricket in Pakistan.

Thus, in the above view of the matter, Board cannot be held to be a State for the purpose of Article 12. Consequently, this writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution is not maintainable and the same is dismissed.

The majority view  held that Board cannot be held to be a State for the purpose of Article 12 . Thus, the Writ filed under article 32 of Constitution is not maintainable. Hence, the petition is dismissed.

The dissenting judgment of Sinha, J. in Zee Telefilms seeks to answer this question from various perspectives, and it is apposite to dwell on these at the very outset. Whether the said private body could be ‘State’ or not can be verified by one test as “if allowed to perform the regulatory and controlling functions, or to discharge positive obligation of public nature or to discharge public duties, which were otherwise the job of the government.” That being the case, the nature of the function performed by a private body simpliciter could elevate it to the status of ‘State’, regardless of the financial, functional and/or administrative control by the Government.

Concepts highlighted:

The facts established in the case are as follows:

  1. Board is not created by a statute.
  2. No part of the share capital of the Board is held by the Government.
  3. The Board is not provided with financial help by the Government for the action of spending funds.
  4. In the field of cricket, a monopoly status is enjoyed by the board.  Though such status is neither given nor safeguarded by the State.
  5. There is no existence of a deep and pervasive State control.  
  6. The Board is an autonomous body, not created by transfer of a Government owned corporation.

Thus, the BCCI is not a ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India.



Q1. Under the provisions of which Act does BCCI is registered?

Answer: Tamil Nadu Registration of Societies Act,1975.

Q2. Whether BCCI is a ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12?

Answer: No

Q3. Which sports code was issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in the year 2011?

Answer: National Sports Development Code of India  (NSCI)

Q4. Mention the equivalent citations of the case.

Answer: AIR 2005 SC2677, 2005 (1) SCALE 666, (2005) 4 SCC 649

Q5. Does the BCCI is provided with the financial help by the government?

Answer: No

[i] See BCCI Regulations.

[ii] (2002)3SCR100.

[iii] AIR1981SC487.

[iv] AIR1967SC1857

[v] AIR1975SC1331

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