New Delhi : Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has lambasted both Telangana MSOs and the State Home Secretary for disconnecting the signals of TV9 on an unreasonable and notional grounds, terming it as unnecessary punishment for the broadcaster and against the interest of lawful business practices.
Earlier, the owners of TV9 (Associated Broadcasting Co. Pvt Ltd.) the leading Telugu news and current affairs channel in Telangana and Andhar Pradesh had filed a petition before TDSAT seeking its intervention on the prolonged disconnection of its signals by the Telangana MSOs. Apparently, on 14th August TDSAT in its hearing had ordered adding Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Telangana State government as additional respondents to the petition filed by TV9.
Finally on 2nd September, TDSAT has completed its hearing in presence of the representative of the petitioner and respondents, the MSOs of Telangana and MIB and passed its final order while the State Govt of Telangana failed to appear.
The Order issued by the Chairperson of TDSAT Justice Aftab Alam states that “The blacking out of the petitioner’s channel on grounds of alleged or perceived threat of mob violence brings in the issue of the petitioner’s rights to speech and expression and to carry on trade and business 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 petitioner’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 petitioner’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 petitioner’s channels without any delay”
Moreover, the TDSAT also directed the Home Secretary of Telangana State Government and Hyderabad City Superintendent of Police to ensure necessary protection being extended to the Telangana MSOs and initiate necessary action to control the unruly crowds which are threatening the Lawful Business practices of the broadcaster TV9 and the MSOs.
The direction towards the Home secretary of Telangana and Hyderabad Police Commissioners reads that “Before concluding the matter, we must address the apprehension expressed by respondent no.1 (Telangana MSOs) that by transmitting the petitioner’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 petitioner’s broadcast.
The order has tightened the noose of Telangana government’s irresponsible attitude and forced the govt to play the protector role. However, the wilful absence of Telangana Government before the tribunal despite the notification order from TDSAT has raised the eyebrows of many in the market and creates a question mark on how seriously the state government is going to implement the order of the Tribunal.