The Telegraph
Friday , June 12 , 2015

I&B treads with caution on Sun TV

New Delhi, June 11: The information and broadcasting ministry today sought the law ministry's opinion on initiating moves against Sun TV network, reflecting what sources say is I&B minister Arun Jaitley's reluctance to implement in haste a home ministry directive to cancel its broadcasting licence.

Based in Chennai, the Sun TV network is owned by Kalanithi Maran, a great-nephew of Karunanidhi, the DMK leader and the political bête noire of current chief minister, Jayalalithaa.

The Union home ministry had told the I&B ministry last week that the security clearance granted to the broadcasting company is being cancelled as three criminal cases were pending against Kalanithi and his brother Dayanidhi Maran - former Union telecom minister in the UPA government who is among the accused in the 2G scam.

Following the home ministry's decision, the I&B ministry will have to cancel the group's broadcasting licence, which would mean the company would need to shut down its 33 satellite channels, apart from about 45 FM radio stations it runs in partnership with other firms.

Sources close to Jaitley said that instead of issuing a showcause notice to the Sun group - the official action required before actual cancellation - the I&B ministry has written to the law ministry.

"The minister is treading cautiously for two reasons. First, he wants to be sure whether the licence of a broadcaster can be cancelled only on the basis of allegations of financial irregularities, corruption and money-laundering without the charges having been proven yet. Second, he does not want to meddle in Tamil Nadu politics," a senior official close to Jaitley said.

Many had seen the Rajnath Singh-led home ministry's decision to deny security licence to the Sun group as an extension of the overtures to Jayalalithaa.

The home ministry had first denied security clearance to the group's radio stations in April and refused to budge despite a "plea" from the I&B ministry to reconsider its decision. Government officials said that the I&B ministry was being cautious also because of a similar experience last year.

"An order cancelling the licence of another Maran family's cable TV venture, Kal Cable, last year had attracted strictures from Madras High Court, which said the I&B and home ministries should have first issued a showcause notice to the company," said a senior official.

In September that year, the high court set aside the central government's order.

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