Television

HC questions government reasoning in promulgating ordinance

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NEW DELHI: Even as the government today said it would challenge any court order favouring Nimbus on deferred telecast, the Delhi High Court questioned the Centre's reasoning in promulgating the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Ordinance.

(Meanwhile, Prasar Bharati sources confirmed that talks held yesterday between Nimbus and Prasar Bharati over the issue had failed again. Thus, uncertainty prevailed over whether Doordarshan will get live sports feed of the India-Sri Lanka series despite the Ordinance being in force.)

When the additional solicitor general PP Malhotra informed the court that the government had notified an ordinance making it mandatory for private channels to share the 'live feed' of cricket and other international sports events in India with public broadcasters Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR), Justice BD Ahmed sought to know why the government was so swift in bringing an ordinance.

''The Rule of Law should not have been subverted,'' he said. ''It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, when there is a subversion of judicial process,'' the Justice observed, while adjourning the matter till tomorrow for further hearing.

However, the ordinance notified yesterday was not challenged before the court.

Malhotra said the petition of Nimbus Communications, which owns Neo Sports, should be dismissed as it had challenged the circular of the government to share the live feed under Article 19 of the Constitution as its Fundamental Right.

Citing judgments of the Supreme Court, Malhotra said it was the fundamental rights of every citizen to view and listen the cricket match or sports events held in the country.

After submitting copies of the ordinance, Malhotra read out the relevant portions, saying the private channel would have to share live feed with DD and AIR.

On 23 January, the High Court had in an interim order allowed Prasar Bharati to download the feed of Nimbus Communications and telecast the India-West Indies ODI series in a delayed transmission of seven minutes on Doordarshan (DD) and permitted live commentary on AIR.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Nimbus Communications, argued the government could not force any private channel to share its live feed as it was against the fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution.

Speaking to newspersons early in the morning before the matter came up before the High Court, I&B joint secretary Baijendranath said, ''If such an order comes from court, we will challenge it in the light of the Ordinance which has been promulgated making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share live feeds of important sports events with the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati.''

He said there was a law of the land in force and if any broadcaster violates that it can be punished by various means including a ban.

Nobody has challenged the ordinance and no court has passed any order in this respect, so its provisions are binding for all, he said.

The Ordinance that was cleared by the Union Cabinet on 1 February and given Presidential assent late on 2 February has been promulgated from retrospective effect dating back to 11 November, 2005 when the downlinking guidelines had been issued. These guidelines, along with the uplinking guidelines, have now been given statutory status.

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