Delhi HC refers Saaibaba Telefilms vs Prasar Bharati dispute to DIAC

The Delhi High Court has referred the dispute between Saaibaba Telefilms and Prasar Bharati to the Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) with the consent of the two parties.

While disposing of Saaibaba Telefilms’ arbitration petition, the HC stated that the DIAC will appoint a Sole Arbitrator for adjudicating the disputes that have arisen between the parties in relation to the agreement between the two organisations. Further, the arbitration and fee shall be governed by the DIAC Rules.

Saaibaba Telefilms, which is a content production house, had filed the petition due to an alleged breach of contract by Prasar Bharti. The case was filed under Section 11 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 in March.

The petition was filed following the last-minute cancellation of the telecast of Saaibaba Telefilms’ reality show ‘Suron Ka Eklavya’ and fiction show ‘MBA Sarpanch’.

The production house along with Balaji Telefilms had bagged prime-time slots to provide programming to DD National under Prasar Bharati’s new content acquisition policy.

As per the policy, the two production houses had to provide shows by 29 July in case of weekend shows and 31 July in case of weekday shows. Saaibaba Telefilms was reportedly ready with both its shows while Balaji was not able to deliver shows before the deadline.

The show was scheduled to telecast from 31 July at 7.30 pm slot, every Monday to Friday whereas ‘Suron Ka Eklavya’ was supposed to air from 29 July 2017 at 8 pm, every Saturday-Sunday.

Saaibaba had sought the appointment of a Sole Arbitrator for adjudicating the disputes that have arisen between the parties in relation to the Agreement dated 5 April 2017 for sourcing of content on primetime of DD National as per the New Content Acquisition Scheme allotting the petitioner a slot from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays on DD National Channel.

The said agreement contains an arbitration agreement in form of Clause 49 thereof.

The bench of Justice Navin Chawla noted that Prasar Bharati has not filed any reply to the petition. Learned counsel for the public broadcaster submitted that it is in the process of considering the representation/claim of the production house for an amicable settlement.

“As the existence of the Arbitration Agreement and due invocation thereof are not denied, in my opinion, there is no impediment for appointing the Sole Arbitrator for adjudicating the disputes that have arisen between the parties in relation to the abovementioned Agreement. In case the respondent in the meantime takes a decision in favour of a settlement, it can always seek closure of the arbitration proceedings based on such settlement,” Justice Chawala said in the order while disposing of the petition.

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