Madras high court permits Sun Group to take part in FM auction

The Madras High Court today issued an interim order allowing Sun Group to participate in the Phase-III auction process of FM radio, in a major relief to the embattled Sun Group whose 49 FM radio channels faced an uncertain future after the union home ministry denied them security clearance.

The denial of right to participate in the FM auctions also raised the question of how the group has been allowed to run television channels when it is not eligible to operate radio channels.

The high court bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan also directed the centre to allow the group to participate in today's mock auctions and regular auctions commencing on 27 July.

The court, however, asked the ministry of information and broadcasting to keep the results of auctions in a sealed cover till further orders.

The court would take a final decision depending on the result of the main writ petition filed by the group seeking a direction to quash the order of the ministry of information and broadcasting denying the company right to participate in the FM auctions.

The I&B ministry had disallowed the Sun Group from participating in the auction process after the home ministry declined to provide it with the necessary security clearance on the ground that criminal cases are pending against the promoter group.

The court had, on Tuesday, reserved its order on the Sun Group's plea seeking a direction to the centre to allow it to participate in the auction process (See: Home ministry erred in blocking Sun TV Netwok's security clearance: AG).

The Sun Group and its companies had sought a stay on the 15 July order of the I&B ministry refusing the permission on the specious ground of security clearance.

Senior counsel PS Raman, appearing for the petitioner, had contended that the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 nowhere mentions about the security clearance.

Also, the counsel pointed out that the group had been denied the `so-called' security clearance on the ground that it faced Aircel-Maxis case linked to 2G spectrum allocation case, money laundering charges and alleged illegal telephone exchange case (in which former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother and Sun Group owner Kalaniti Maran are accused).

He also submitted that when the government allows persons charged in criminal cases to enjoy the post of ministers, how could persons facing mere FIRs be disallowed from running FM radio stations.

Also, Raman said, there were contradictions in the statements of the government that the Marans caused a loss of Rs443 crore to the exchequer by establishing a mini-telephone exchange using it illegally for Sun TV whereas the FIR filed in this connection says that the loss was only Rs1.17 crore.