Staff Reporter

Bench orders notices to Ministries

MADURAI: A public interest litigation petition has been filed before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Communications to revoke the license granted to Sun Direct TV Private Limited to provide Direct-to-Home (DTH) broadcasting services.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra and Justice P.R. Shivakumar on Friday ordered notices to the Ministries returnable by October 6.

The petitioner, V.M. Ravichandran, claimed that he was a cable TV operator at Tirumangalam near here.

He said distribution of TV signals through DTH service using the Ku band was permitted in the country since 2001.

According to the guidelines framed for obtaining DTH licence, an applicant company should not have more than 20 per cent equity shares in a broadcasting company or a cable network company and vice versa.

The object behind the guidelines was to discourage companies from monopolising the business of reception and distribution of television signals.

On the contrary, the petitioner alleged that the Chairman and Managing Director of Sun Direct TV, Kalanidhi Maran, was holding a majority stake in a broadcasting company as well as a cable network company.

Referring to the Red Herring prospectus filed by Sun TV Limited before the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the petitioner claimed that Mr. Maran held 96.67 per cent of shares in Sun TV Direct, 89.90 per cent in Sun TV Limited and 75 per cent in Kal Cables Private Limited (a Multi System Operator based in Madurai).

“Even though the obligation contemplated under the guidelines is that no broadcasting company or cable company should hold more than 20 per cent equity in the applicant company and vice versa, the Union Ministries were persuaded to grant licence to the third respondent (Sun Direct TV) by stating that the fourth respondent (Mr. Maran) is an individual and not a broadcasting company or a cable network company,” the petitioner alleged further.

Pointing out that the Sun Direct TV, registered under the Companies Act on February 16, 2005, was all set to begin DTH services, the petitioner sought an interim injunction restraining the company from operating on the new platform.