Notwithstanding objections from Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Union Home Ministry today made it clear that it will not give security clearance to Maran-owned Sun television network, alleging that many rules had been violated by the owners.
The stand is clear and there is no provision under the law for granting security clearance to the Sun TV no matter whatever opinion was being held, senior Home Ministry officials said. Sun TV runs 33 channels and FM radio stations in South India.
However, taking a cue from the Sun TV experience, the Ministry has made some changes in granting license to private television operators in the country wherein promoters or bidders will have to give a self-declaration certifying that no cases including criminal, money laundering, links with terror groups and major financial fraud, were pending against them.
The decision to streamline the policy was done after the recent Sun TV case in which the Home Ministry has put its foot down against grant of security clearance to the channel being operated by Marans.
Highly-placed sources in the ministry said there is no change in the policy but “all that has been done now was to ask the promoters, bidders or the company to give a self-declaration that it was not involved in any cases that had an implication on national security”.
The changes, which were effected by Union Home Secretary L C Goyal, have listed 14 parameters which include cases like money laundering, links with terror groups, major financial frauds, links with external intelligence agencies and murder, the sources said.
The provisions existed earlier as well but self-declaration has been brought in recently, the sources said.
The sources said that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on April 1, 2015 attached assets worth Rs. 742.58 crore in the name of former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his businessman brother Kalanithi and other family members in connection with its money laundering probe in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Among the assets attached are a huge amount of fixed deposits (FDs) and mutual funds held largely by his brother and Sun TV MD Kalanithi. Some assets of Kalanithi’s wife Kaveri have also been attached.
Asked about Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s reported opinion in favour of Sun TV, the officials said everyone is entitled to hold an opinion but that does not change the stand of the Ministry.
The ball is in the court of Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the stand of Home Ministry has been made clear that the Sun TV’s illegal telephone exchange had a direct bearing on the country’s national security, the sources said.
The Maran brothers are facing a CBI probe over alleged allotment of 300 high-speed BSNL telephone lines to their installations. There are two other pending criminal probes against Sun TV Network and Kalanithi Maran — CBI’s Aircel- Maxis case and an Enforcement Directorate case of money laundering.
The stand of the legal eagles that by not granting the security clearance, the Home Ministry was infringing on Right to Freedom of Expression under the Constitution, the sources said, in no way amounted to curbing the Constitutional provision as it was a pure commercial deal.
The sources said that Home Ministry was also planning to streamline certain procedures of Foreign Direct Investment in secured sectors like Telecom, Defence, Civil Aviation, Power projects and uplinking and downlinking facilities.
Asked about the countries, which are on watch list, the sources said that due diligence will be carried out before clearing investments from such countries.
All that the Home Ministry will do is to build a safeguard and “firewall” to protect any dubious transaction from entering the country.