There is clear wedge being driven in between Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) through the Maran brothers’ issue. Essentially, it’s the clause of 3.2.1 and 3.8 which is the base of the Maran and MHA conflict. Of course, I&B Ministry is soft on the Marans. Also not known to anybody in the Indian media, in February 2009 four employees of Sun TV were arrested in Sri Lanka for Pro-LTTE activities. Maran is trying to use 3.2.1 to continue the bid for FM stations and MHA is firm on 3.8 which restricts them on account of investigations.
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has declined to grant security clearance to the group to further its television and radio businesses in India. In a similar manner, Sri Lanka has blacklisted Sun TV and its employees from reporting on Sri Lanka as it is seen as an LTTE sympathizer.
On February 1st, 2009, four employees of Sun TV network were arrested by the Sri Lankan army for anti-government propaganda and Pro-LTTE decimation of news. Investigations revealed that Sun TV also operated without a valid license in Sri Lanka. The employees were handed over to the Vavuynia Police.
Similarly in April, 2012, a crew of four Sun TV employees were prevented from reporting on the visit of the Indian delegations after their equipment was impounded by the Customs shortly after arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport. Authorities in Colombo had informed the Sun TV employees that their organization were working against the interest of Sri Lankan government and were a security threat. The then Permanent Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the media that the “Marans should concentrate on seeking a separate Tamil State in Tamil Nadu, because the Tamil population was much larger than Sri Lanka”.
Maran brothers are facing a CBI probe over alleged allotment of 300 high-speed BSNL telephone lines to the residence of former Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran in Chennai which were extended to his brother’s Kalanithi’s channel Sun TV. The Aircel-Maxis deal also came under the scanner after Aircel owner C. Sivasankaran lodged a complaint with the CBI in April-May 2011 alleging that he was forced to sell his stake to Maxis.
There are various things to be considered while giving contracts to firm:
First of all, tenders are issued by the ministry for any work.
The tender process is a composite process having various stages, you cannot go to the next stage without clearing the earlier stage. The process of elimination of persons held to be unfit is in two stages. In the first stage those applicants which are controlled by persons who are convicted of specified offenses are eliminated from the very beginning, one such offense is money laundering, it means that he who is convicted is barred from participating in the tender process itself. In the present case this clause is not applicable and because of that respondents were allowed to go to the next stage, this is in 3.2.1 of Notice Inviting Application (NIA).
The next stage is clearance from security angle (Ministry of Home Affairs), this requires that even if a person is not convicted of specified offenses like money-laundering etc, still he has to have the security clearance, this means that a non-convict may also be debarred from participating in tender process, if he is not clear from security angle, this is clause 3.8 of NIA. The difference between clause 3.2.1 and 3.8 is that while those afflicted with clause 3.2.1 cannot improve but those afflicted with clause 3.8 can improve later if there is change in their security status depending upon facts of the case. Another point is, persons who need to be security cleared is specified and that earlier included companies/firms and Directors/Key executives of the applicant, but this has been changed by the government w.e.f. 16.01.2015. In addition to earlier categories, now any person including firms/companies/entities who have 10 per cent or more shares of applicant is required to be security cleared.
Kalanidhi Maran is the Director as well as the owner of 75 per cent shares of applicant company and therefore he needs to go through security clearance, besides, he is the key executive taking all important decisions on behalf of the applicant company, hence he has to go through security clearance. Further, the requirements of clause 3.8 is not statutory mandatory but terms and conditions between two contracting parties and if applicant does not want to meet the same, it cannot proceed with the contract further. Clause 3.2.1 and Clause 3.8 are not interrelated or interdependent nor are they alternates, they are to be read independently and not in conjunction with each other. Therefore, Sun TV Group has accepted all the terms and conditions including clause 3.2.1 and clause 3.8 in their pre-bid conference held on 28.01.2015 and now cannot challenge the same merely because in the process of verification, they have been found to be unsuitable. The law of Estoppels will clearly apply as India and Sri Lanka both see the Sun TV as a security threat.
The Kalanithi Maran owned Sun Television Network is under watchful of eye of the Central Intelligence Agencies not only in India but also in Sri Lanka.
Inputs from Savio Rodrigues