Are KCR, cable operators in Telangana wilfully going against TDSAT order to allow channels to air
news Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 05:30
Dhanya Rajendran| The News Minute| September 10, 2014| 12.20 pm IST Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Wednesday at an event in Warangal threatened to bury alive TV channels that have dared to insult Telangana. The Chief Minister's open threat came after protests by journalists in Hyderabad and Delhi, questioning the blackout of TV 9 Telugu and ABN Andhra Jyothi in the state.Â Referring to the two channels that had aired programmes three months ago, KCR said, "If they don't respect Telangana assembly, its character, attitude, existence and respect us, we won't hesitate to break their neck and the throw them out."Â Many in Telangana had protested against some programmes telecast on the two channels and felt that they had crossed a line.Â The channels have apologised repeatedly for the transgression, but KCR seems to be in no mood to relent. But the move by cable operators in Telangana, and KCR's speech seems to be in conflict with the orders passed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal. (TDSAT)Â Read-Â KCR says he will bury channels that don't respect Telangana, won't hesitate to break necks and throw them out In an order dated on September 2nd, 2014, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) directed the responsible Multi-System Operators (MSOs) to resume transmission of TV9 news channel without delay. It said that â€śas long as the contents of the petitionerâ€™s (ABC) broadcast do not violate any law, the channels cannot be taken off- air on threat of violenceâ€ť. It added, "So far there is no material before the Tribunal to come even to a prima facie finding that the petitionerâ€™s channels are in breach of any of the provisions of law. We have, therefore, no option but to direct respondent no.1 to resume the transmission of the petitionerâ€™s channels without any delay." The News Minute is in possession of the order: TELECOM DISPUTES SETTLEMENT & APPELLATE TRIBUNALNEW DELHI Dated 2nd September, 2014 Petition No.347(C) of 2014 Associated Broadcasting Co.Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad â€¦PetitionerVs.Siti Vision Digital Media Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad & Ors. â€¦Respondent BEFORE:HONâ€™BLE MR. JUSTICE AFTAB ALAM, CHAIRPERSONHONâ€™BLE MR. KULDIP SINGH, MEMBER For Petitioner :Mr. K. Raju, Advocate For Respondent No. 1:Mr. Tejveer Singh Bhatia, AdvocateFor Respondent No.2 (Ministry of I&B):Mr. K. Parameshwar, AdvocateFor Respondent No.3:None.O R D E RThe petitioner is a broadcaster. It has a subsisting placement agreement with respondent no.1, Siti Vision Digital Media Pvt. Ltd., which is a multi-system operator. It is the grievance of the petitioner that Siti Vision has discontinued the transmission of its signals without any valid reasons. On the earlier dates, Mr.Bhatia, counsel appearing for Siti Vision did not deny the statement made on behalf of the petitioner. He, however, stated that the broadcast of some of the petitionerâ€™s programme had given rise to law and order problems and the office and the head-end of respondent no.1 had faced threats of violence from some unruly crowds. In view of the statements made on behalf of the two sides, on 14 August 2014, we directed that the Union of India through the Secretary, Information & Broadcasting, Government of India and the Home Secretary, State of Telangana be also added as respondents nos.2 and 3, respectively. Notices were issued to them and the petitioner was directed to also effect service of notice through dasti.Â On 26 August 2014, counsel for the petitioner informed that service of notices was effected on both the newly added respondents through dasti. On that date, however, no one appeared either for the Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting or the Home Secretary, State of Telangana. Giving them another opportunity, we adjourned the case for today. Today, Mr. K. Parameshwar appears for the Secretary, Information & Broadcasting. No one, however, appears for the Home Secretary, State of Telangana. In the meanwhile, Mr. Bhatia has also filed the reply on behalf of Siti Vision. The written reply reiterates what was stated by Mr. Bhatia earlier. Mr. Bhatia further states that earlier one of the programmes of the petitioner had caused considerable disturbance in Telangana but he also added that later on, the petitioner not only discontinued the programme but had also expressed apologies for it. Be that as it may, there is no averment in the reply that the petitionerâ€™s broadcast violated any provision of any laws. The matter to our mind raises issues more fundamental than the breach of a bipartite agreement. The blacking out of the petitionerâ€™s channel on grounds of alleged or perceived threat of mob violence brings in the issue of the petitionerâ€™s rights to speech and expression and to carry on trade andbusiness guaranteed by the Constitution. Some section of people may not find some programme broadcast by the petitioner very pleasing or even palatable but the essence of right to speech and expression lies in exercise of the right against the dominant public mood and sentiment. As long as the contents of the petitionerâ€™s broadcast do not violate any law, the channels cannot be taken off- air on threat of violence. In such a case, it is those who indulge in violence would be breaking the law and the State and its authorities must act against the offenders and not against the broadcaster. So far there is no material before the Tribunal to come even to a prima facie finding that the petitionerâ€™s channels are in breach of any of the provisions of law. We have, therefore, no option but to direct respondent no.1 to resume the transmission of the petitionerâ€™s channels without any delay. At this stage, we may also note the stand of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Mr. Parameshwar states that the Ministry had received a complaint from the petitioner and has taken cognizance of the matter. It had issued a show cause notice to respondent no.1 on 27 July 2014 and had received the respondentâ€™s reply dated 30 August 2014. He produces copies of the notice issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting as also the response of respondent, Siti Vision. Let those be taken on record.Â We find that in its response to the notice issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Siti Vision also makes similar statements as are being made before us.Â Mr. Parameshwar states that the Ministry may revoke the licence of respondent no.1 but that would be of no help to the petitioner. He further submits that law and order being a State subject, the Ministry is not in a position to do much in this matter. However, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has taken up the matter with the Chief Minister of Telangana. He also states that in the facts and circumstances of this case, the Ministry would welcome the order passed by the Tribunal as indicated above. Before concluding the matter, we must address the apprehension expressed by respondent no.1 that by transmitting the petitionerâ€™s channels, it may invite the ire of the unruly crowds. We direct the State of Telangana and its law enforcing authorities, especially, the Home Secretary, State of Telangana and the Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad to give full protection to the personnel and properties of respondent no.1 and to ensure that no untoward incident takes place as a result of the petitionerâ€™s broadcast. In view of the order passed above, nothing survives in the matter and the petition stands disposed of. â€¦..â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.(Aftab Alam)Chairperson â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..(Kuldip Singh)Member
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