AG favours security nod to Sun TV channels

Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi has reportedly told the government it should grant security clearances to 33 television channels of Sun Television Network (Sun TV).

Promoters Kalanithi Maran and his wife hold 75 per cent in the company, whose market capitalisation stood at Rs 13,144.69 crore as of Friday.

Sources in the AG’s office and the Union home ministry say the AG has supported granting security clearances to Sun TV. Corruption cases aren’t adequate grounds to deny a security clearance, the AG has said, adding investigating agencies can continue to probe cases that relate to corruption and don’t impinge on national security.

On Friday, the Sun TV stock rebounded, rising about 10 per cent in post-noon trade to Rs 337.75. It closed at Rs 333.55, up 7.86 per cent, or Rs 24.30, compared to its previous close.

The home ministry is unlikely to go against the AG in the Sun TV case. Officials say it is a bizarre situation in which India’s top lawyer has taken a different stand in court. Though the home ministry cannot go against the AG, it is of the view that Sun TV should not be given a security clearance because that would undermine the country’s economic security. Now, the home ministry can represent its views if an entity challenges the AG’s opinion in the Supreme Court.

The information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry had sought the AG’s opinion on the matter after Sun TV’s proposal was struck down by the home ministry on the grounds that its promoter, Kalanithi Maran, was being investigated and the matter related to national security.

On June 8, the Sun TV stock had crashed 28 per cent, after the home ministry voiced its opinion on the matter.

Sun TV claims its channels reach out to about 54 million households and 250 million viewers. Every 10 years, broadcasters need a security clearance to continue operations.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged that Dayanidhi Maran, Kalanithi Maran’s brother and former Union minister, had misused his office in the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006.

It has been alleged Dayanidhi Maran received ‘gratification’ worth about Rs 700 crore, part of which was invested in a company that was part of the Kalanithi Maran-owned Sun Group.

On April 1 this year, the Enforcement Directorate issued a release, announcing it had attached the properties and shares of the Maran brothers and Kalanithi Maran’s wife, Kaveri Kalanithi, in connection with the alleged gratification.

According to reports, Kalanithi Maran has written to the prime minister, the finance minister and the home minister, saying, “Sun TV (is being) singled out unjustly.” He is also said to have questioned the home ministry’s decision on the matter. Several TV companies controlled by business conglomerates faced cases related to corporate espionage at the petroleum ministry, he said, adding some had pending cases related to the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum, as well as disproportionate assets. But their security clearances hadn’t been revoked, he had said.

He pointed out that telecom companies were allowed to bid during the recent 3G and 4G spectrum auctions, while all power companies were allowed to participate in recent auctions, despite cases pending against them with the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.

Maran said Sun TV contributed about Rs 600 crore annually in taxes to the state exchequer. He claimed the company had always complied with laws.


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