CHENNAI: People of the country would laugh at the government if it provided security clearance to companies owned by Sun Group, accused of committing serious economic offences including money laundering, contended Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan while arguing against the group’s petition to allow them to participate in auction for Phase-III of FM radio broadcasting licences.
Reserving its order on the interim relief sought by the petitioner, the Madras High Court on Tuesday directed notice to the Union government.
The issue pertains to the decision of the Central government to deny permission to companies owned by Sun Group to participate in auction for Phase-III of FM radio broadcasting licences, scheduled to begin on July 27. On Monday, six separate petitions (three each by the company and its share holders) were filed before the High Court seeking stay on the auction and the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s July 15 order and consequently direct the government to permit the company to participate in the auction.
When the petitions came up for hearing before Justice M Sathyanarayanan, senior counsels PS Raman, Mohan Parasaran and ARL Sundarsean appeared for Sun TV Network, KAL Radio and two other share holders of the companies, respectively. They contended that security clearance cannot be denied to the companies owned by the group, as no final orders has been passed in the alleged cases of economic offences.
“None of the provisions under the Indian Telegraph Act mandates security clearance. Only in the latest notification for the auction the clearance has been newly introduced,” Raman argued. Claiming that till date the Union Home Ministry and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are not clear on their stand over the issue, advocate Mohan Parasaran said, “Economic offences by law is still not regarded disqualification for participating in such auction.”
Referring to the terms of the licence agreement for FM broadcasting, advocate ARL Sundarsean said, “According to the terms of licence, broadcasting contents against the sovereignty of the country or against the national security can only be a ground to disqualify, suspend or terminate the licence.”
Responding to the arguments of the petitioners, ASG Rajagopalan said, “In first place, the petitioners cannot approach this court, as they have agreed to the terms of the auction application, which says that any dispute against the auction notification can only be challenged before the courts in Delhi.”
Further, pointing to the charges against the Sun group, he said, “People of this country will laugh at the government if it provides security clearance to such companies,” and contended that any interim order by the court will affect the auction process.