The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will seek legal opinion to validate its reasons for denying security clearance essential for the renewal of licence to 33 television channels run by the Chennai-based Sun Group.

Highly-placed sources told BusinessLine that while legal help will be sought to clarify what constitutes “economic security” and why the Sun Group has been found to be in violation, the MHA is unlikely to alter the decision.

Economic security threat

The MHA had cited “economic security” as the main reason for denying security clearance to the Sun Group earlier this month. “We have received representations with regard to the security clearance issue. Legal opinion may be sought. But the decision (to deny clearance) is sound and was taken on technical grounds at the Joint Secretary level,” said a top MHA source.

The suspicion in some quarters about the ruling BJP’s warm relations with the AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as the reason for the Marans being “harassed” is unfounded, said a top source. “This is just a baseless rumour. The decision has been taken purely on merit,” the source said.

What this means is that Home Minister Rajnath Singh, maintaining a “hands-off” approach, has relied entirely on his officers to deal with the Sun Group. The group has thus been denied security clearances to run TV and radio channels. Subsidiary company Kal Cables has also been denied a Multi System Operator licence.

The Home Minister is conscious of how former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got dragged into the alleged scam in a coal mine allocation to industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. Thus, he is said to be going strictly by the book in dealing with corporates.

With the Sun Group not managing to get security clearance, the I&B Ministry cancelled the MSO licence to Kal Cables, a decision that was set aside by the Madras High Court in September 2014.

The I&B Ministry clearly does not want to be caught on the wrong foot again before the court.

Accordingly, not only has I&B Minister Arun Jaitley written to the Home Minister but his department, too, is proceeding with extreme caution over whether economic offences committed by members of a media group constitute a threat to the nation’s economic security. But the MHA has so far stuck to its guns.

It has justified its reliance for denial of security clearance on ongoing investigations into money-laundering during which the Enforcement Directorate attached properties worth ₹742.58 crore belonging to former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Sun TV Network owner Kalanithi Maran as well as his wife Kaveri Kalanithi.

In 2011, the CBI had filed a chargesheet against the Maran brothers, Malaysian businessman T Ananthakrishnan, Maxis Communications (a company promoted by Ananthakrishnan), Sun Direct TV, and Astro All Asia Networks.

Additionally, a CBI probe is on over the alleged allotment of 300 high-speed BSNL telephone lines to the residence of Dayanidhi Maran in Chennai that were extended to his brother’s channel.

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