New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to interfere with the Indian Hockey Federation's (IHF) agreement with Neo Sports channel-owner Nimbus Sports for holding an IPL-style hockey tournament.

Justice Vipin Sanghi refused to interfere with the IHF's deal with Nimbus Sports, dismissing a petition by Premier Hockey Development Pvt Ltd (PHD), challenging the deal.

While dismissing the petition, Justice Sanghi also held the PHD guilty for suppressing facts relevant to the case and slapped a cost of Rs one lakh on it.

PHD had been created as per a 2004 agreement between IHF and ESPN Star Sports (with two bodies respectively holding 51 per cent and 49 per cent stakes in it) to hold annual Hockey Premier League for 10 years but the event was organized from 2005 to 2008 only.

IHF then signed a deal with Nimbus Sports in December 2010, for organising a similar tournament for 15 years which was challenged by ESPN. And the PDH had gone to the high court challenging this deal.

While dismissing the PDH's plea, the court held that on first hand the resolution to file the petition passed by PHD is "unauthorised and without proper authority" as all board members were not present and did not vote for it.

"Quorum prescribed by agreements was not complete as there was no director nominated by IHF present and voting. The petition has not been instituted by the PDH by validly
passing board resolution and is unauthorised and without proper authority," the court said.

The bench also rejected ESPN's contention that IHF was de-recognised by IOA and, therefore, was not in a position to fulfill its obligations.

"Even after the IOA suspended the IHF governing council, it did not cease to exist. It is a registered society having its own juristic identity," Justice Sanghi said.

The court, however, mentioned in the judgement that its observation shall not be binding on any arbitrage tribunal which may be constituted to determine the dispute between the parties.

In December 2004, IHF had entered into a 10-year deal with ESPN Star Sports to form the PHD Pvt Ltd, to hold Hockey Premier League till 2014.

ESPN, however, did not organise the event after 2008 on the ground that Indian Olympics Association had suspended the IHF's governing council which rendered the federation incapable of fulfilling its obligations under the contract.

In December 2010, IHF entered into a separate agreement with Nimbus Sports for another annual hockey league for 15 years, which was challenged by ESPN contending that the
deal could not have been signed until the 2004 agreement is terminated mutually.

IHF, however, had argued, "ESPN failed to perform its obligation to provide sponsorship and funding for organizing Premier Hockey League by PHD after 2008 and there is complete
abandonment of the 2004 agreement."

The hockey administration in India has remained in troubled waters, as the dispute between IHF and Hockey India over recognition is yet to be resolved.

Though the Delhi High Court had held the IHF as the official body, the order was challenged in the Supreme Court which under a temporary arrangement allowed Hockey India to select the Indian national teams for men and women successively for all international outings so far.

(Agencies)