CHENNAI: Under fire from all around, the Marans-owned Sun Group received a much-needed reprieve on Thursday with the Madras High Court permitting it to participate in the phase-III auction for FM radio broadcasting licence.
However, Justice M Sathyanarayanan, who passed the order, made clear that this was only an interim order, and the final outcome would be subject to the outcome of the six petitions moved by the Sun Network, KAL Radio, South Asia FM and its share holders.
Pointing out that the company’s participation could increase the bid amounts, ultimately benefiting the country, the court said the bids by Sun Group should be kept in a sealed cover and produced before the court during the next hearing.
In his 18-page detailed order, Justice Sathyanarayanan said: “... During the period of operation as FM radio broadcasters, the petitioner companies did not come to any adverse notice and admittedly, none of the companies are arrayed as accused either in Aircel-Maxis case or prosecution launched by CBI in the illegal telephone exchange case ... The cases are still in the stage of investigation.”
Noting that it is well settled law that an accused is presumed to be innocent unless proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the judge said, “The said presumption for the present, operates in favour of the petitioners.”
The judge also pointed out a submission made by the petitioners that if the same yardstick was widely applied, one of the shortlisted companies, involved in 2G spectrum case being monitored by the Supreme Court, should have been eliminated.
Stating that the prayer sought by the petitioners was limited to participation in the auction, the judge said “... The court has not touched upon the merits of the case of either the petitioners or the respondents, as the writ petitions have to be adjudicated on its own merits.”
Meanwhile, the company filed six caveat petitions in the High Court. As a result, in case the Union government preferred to challenge the present interim order, no orders could be passed by the court without hearing the companies.
Sun Group, which operates about 45 FM stations across the country, found itself out of the list of eligible participants in the phase-III auctions issued on July 15, triggering a major controversy. Reports from the national capital cited difference of opinion between Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and I and B minister Arun Jaitley over this, but the Home Ministry is apparently unrelenting in this matter. On July 16, the Sun group was served with a communication stating that the company was rejected fromt eh FM auctions on the grounds of national security. This prompted Sun Group to approach the court seeking relief, relying on the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the licence terms.