Taking strong note of the unjustifiable attitude of Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer (CEO) B S Lalli,the Delhi High Court on Monday ordered the appointment of a former senior judge to supervise Board meetings in the future and asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to probe the alleged financial irregularities.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Manmohan directly intervened to resolve the ongoing impasse between Lalli and broadcasters chairman Arun Bhatnagar,who has accused the CEO of circumventing all decisions of the Board,after turning down the Centres proposal to give it some more time for arriving at an amicable solution.
We are of the opinion that keeping in view the unjustified attitude of the CEO,as would be apparent from his last affidavit dated July 21,2009 in which he has repeatedly stated that some members holding slender majority are trying to weaken his office,no useful purpose would be served by convening a Board meeting under the supervision of a senior law officer. Moreover,as very serious allegations of financial mismanagement have been made in the present matter,we in the interim issue the following directions, said the bench while passing a slew of directives for the functioning of the Indias largest public broadcaster.
The court has now asked the Board to hold a meeting within 15 days and appointed Justice (retd) J P Singh as an independent observer to supervise the meeting and submit a report over compliance of all relevant rules. Minutes of the last five meetings and the resolutions adopted by the Board members are also to be implemented and the Bench has directed the Executive Member to submit the compliance report within a fortnight. Now onwards the meetings will also be videotaped,directed the court.
The allegations regarding financial and administrative irregularities etc are referred to the CVC for appropriate investigation and report, the Bench held. Also,over the question of day-to-day functioning of the broadcaster,the Bench clipped the wings of Lalli and said that he would handle it along with the Member (Finance) and Member (Personnel) of the Board.
During the hearing,Bhatngars counsel Rajiv Nayyar informed the court that a Board meeting had been fixed by the Executive Member on July 30 without complying with the relevant rules and a court order should be passed to cancel the same. The said meeting stands cancelled. The Executive Member is directed to convene a fresh meeting in accordance with the directions issued in the present order, held the Bench.
The courts directives came over a PIL filed by an NGO,Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL),which has sought directions to the Centre to remove Lalli from his post alleging he was continuing to hold office illegally despite the expiry of his term on April 21,2009. The matter had witnessed another twist when Bhatnagar resigned from his post on May 18 but was later requested by the Board to continue.