Fireworks began early this Diwali with Ajay Devgn accusing Yash Raj Films of using their dominant position to keep his film Son Of Sardaar out of theatres in favour of their own film Jab Tak Hai Jaan, starring Shah Rukh Khan. Both films are releasing on November 13. Now, the Competition Appellate Tribunal has ordered an inquiry into allegations by Ajay Devgn Films against Yash Raj Films but also decided that the release of Jab Tak Hai Jaan will not be stayed. Ajay appealed to the tribunal after his petition against YRF was rejected by the Competition Commission.
The tribunal said huge economic interests are at stake for both the parties' films and there could be irreparable loss, if the release is stayed.
"We desist from passing any order," it said and noted that "it would not be proper on our part to freeze the agreements" between Yash Raj Films and the single screen film exhibitors. However, the tribunal has issued notices to Yash Raj Films (YRF) along with its distributor entities, following ADF's appeal.
The tribunal bench headed by chairman Justice V S Sirpurkar also said that "it was not expressing any opinion (about the matter) at this stage".
Both Ajay Devgn Films and Yash Raj Films are claiming victory after the tribunal's decision.
"The Competition Appellate Tribunal has seen merit in our case and has issued notice for enquiring into the anti- competitive activities of YRF about the tie in arrangement to block our movie Son of Sardaar on the day of Diwali," an ADF spokesperson said in a statement today.
Yash Raj Films responded with: We completely refute the press release put out by ADF as the Competition Appellate Tribunal did not find any merit in the contention of ADF because the Tribunal was of the view that ADF has totally failed to establish that the agreements entered into by YRF with the single screens cinemas would cause any appreciable adverse effect on competition.
Two days ago, fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India's (CCI) rejected actor-producer Devgn's complaint alleging abuse of dominant position by YRF, saying that there are no violations of competition norms in the case.
The statement from Ajay Devgn Films also said: "Looking at YRF's statement that only 821 theatres have already executed agreement with YRF for showing Jab Tak Hai Jaan on the Diwali day, had a so called tie in arrangement in comparison to 1407 single screens for Ek Tha Tiger, the Competition Appellate Tribunal did not provide an interim relief. This leaves the balance screens which have not executed agreements with YRF to show Jab Tak Hai Jaan till date to be free to exhibit Son of Sardaar without any tie in arrangement of YRF. This would include 586 single screens which had earlier shown Ek Tha Tiger. Accordingly, we would now be approaching all theatres who have not executed any agreement for showing Jab Tak Hai Jaan for exhibiting our movie," it said.
43-year-old Devgn has been insisting that he has been fighting for his right and asking for fair view on the matter. "If the above facts are found to be false which would be proven through evidence after the release of the movie, we would not only continue to fight against YRF's anti competitive activities on our own behalf but also on the behalf of the entire industry," the statement said.
Ajay Devgn told NDTV yesterday, "Industry people have started reacting. There are people who are suffering. I hope it benefits the industry. I hope the outcome is fair."
He also told agencies earlier that his fight was not with Shah Rukh Khan, star of the rival film.
Shah Rukh Khan, on his part, said that this was a legal matter not involving him. However, he also said, "I find it amusing. This has been decided since a year. They (makers of Son of Sardaar) must have also known, so what is the problem then? If you have delayed, then it's not our fault. I just find it wrong."
Jab Tak Hai Jaan is the last film directed by Yash Chopra, founder of Yash Raj Films, who died on October 21. It co-stars Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma. Son Of Sardaar co-stars Sonakshi Sinha.
(With PTI inputs)