Backed by a legal opinion from the former Law Commission chairman and retired Supreme Court judge, A R Lakshmanan, and a list of 61 channels owned by 16 media groups having criminal cases against their promoters, Kalanithi Maran has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming that his Sun TV Group has been singled out by the Home Ministry while denying security clearance.
The Indian Express was the first to report that Jaitley wrote to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, asking MHA not to equate pending criminal cases as a ground for denying security clearance.
Detailing 16 media groups with promoters or directors having criminal cases, Maran’s letter — dated June 10 — to the Prime Minister said, “To the best of our knowledge and belief, the Ministry of Home Affairs has not withdrawn/denied the security clearance granted to them despite the pendency of criminal cases/ investigations against them. On the contrary, Sun TV Network and its FM radio companies alone have been singled out in a discriminatory manner and security clearance has been withdrawn. The action is highly arbitrary and totally against well established legal procedure.”
Sun TV operates 33 satellite TV channels and, along with three other companies, runs 45 FM radio stations under the brand name Suryan FM in Tamil Nadu and Red FM in other cities. While denial of security clearance for radio stations was conveyed by the MHA to the I&B Ministry in March, the decision about the TV channels was sent in June.
Lakshmanan in his opinion said, “The words of National Security and Public Interest as contained in the policy guidelines have to be given a strict interpretation. The same have to be seen in the light of the content of the transmission and uplinking and not on the basis of the alleged allegations against the promoters of the company… the criminal case at the stage of an FIR or enquiry or framing of chargesheet by CBI cannot form the basis of revoking the licence or suspending the licence or denying the renewal on the ground of public interest or national security concerns.”
Meanwhile, I&B has asked Home Ministry to give a definition of “economic security threat” that can be cited in the cancellation letter to Sun TV Network.