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Arun Jaitley to meet PM to discuss Sun TV issues

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MUMBAI: India’s Finance and Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2 July, 2015 to discuss the security clearance issue for Kalanithi Maran owned Sun TV’s 33 television channels and FM radio stations.

The issue has assumed urgency given that the entire auction process of FM phase III has been held up with the I&B Ministry not convening a meeting of the application review committee. All the other 28 companies, barring those affiliated to Maran's Sun TV Network, that had applied for the auction and migration from phase II to phase III, have been granted security clearance. 

According to an Indian Express report, what has also stumped the I&B Ministry is the Union Home Ministry’s stance with respect to the print publications of the Sun TV Group.

In response to the I&B Ministry’s query regarding the fate of the newspapers and magazines from the Sun stable such as Dinakaran, Kumudham and Murasoli, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said print publications “do not fall under the ambit of national security clearance.”

At a recent meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Law Secretary is said to have pointed out that such a move would go against the spirit of Article 19 (1) of the Constitution on freedom of speech. This was subsequently reiterated in an opinion obtained from the Attorney General’s office. But the PMO had opined in the meeting then that once security clearance has been denied, there was no need perhaps to seek even the AG’s opinion.

In his letter to Singh dated 1 April following the denial of security clearance on 30 March to Sun TV’s FM radio channels, Jaitley had said this was likely to be challenged in the court. “Such a situation will result in unnecessary embarrassment besides eliminating a large group from the FM channels. In view of the above mentioned position, it is felt necessary to request your indulgence for reconsidering the decision," the letter stated.

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