Prasar Bharati Act makes it very difficult to summarily remove CEO, board member

By giving her assent to a Supreme Court inquiry into allegations of financial irregularities by Prasar Bharati CEO B.S. Lalli, President Pratibha Patil has begun the long process to remove him from the post.

The President's order came on the reference of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to official sources. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had initially forwarded the proposal, after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) indicted Mr. Lalli of financial irregularities, favouring certain broadcast companies and breaching Parliamentary privilege, mostly in regard to Doordarshan's cricket telecast rights.

As the framers of the Prasar Bharati Act had wanted to ensure the autonomy of the organisation, they made it very difficult to summarily remove the CEO or any other member of the Board. The Act says that Board members can only be removed from office “by order of the President of India on the ground of misbehaviour” after the Supreme Court has conducted an inquiry, which must also be referenced to it by the President.

The Act also allows the President to suspend the concerned member until he/she passes an order following the Supreme Court's inquiry. Official sources indicated that no such suspension may have been ordered in Mr. Lalli's case, although Ministry officials said they could not comment until they received a copy of the President's order.

In a statement, Mr. Lalli rejected all of CVC's allegations, claiming that the “available record clearly and unequivocally sheds light on the transparency, good faith and sound commercial judgment in respect of all these matters.” He alleged that “a lot of intrigue and mischief has been going on within the organisation,” abetted by “powerful elements from outside” which aimed to “demonise” him and “derail” Prasar Bharati.

“I derive comfort from the fact that I will finally be heard, and that at long last, due focus will be given to facts rather than conjectures, half-truths and plain lies,” Mr. Lalli said about the upcoming inquiry.

Mr. Lalli has allegedly been leading a feud against his own Board for the last few months. Senior officials say that Mr. Lalli refused to work with the other two members of the Board.

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