In a sign that the worsening Centre-West Bengal ties are set to worsen further, the information and broadcasting ministry has said that the West Bengal government’s decision to take over two TV channels of the scam-tainted Saradha Group would violate existing laws.
“The West Bengal government is not a registered company, so it would not be possible to grant permission. Under present guidelines, only companies registered under the Companies Act, 1956, can operate a TV channel. Under the Companies Act, license to operate TV channels can only be given to registered companies not to governments or its departments,” I&B ministry sources told HT.
On Thursday, WB chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced her government’s decision to take over two TV channels of the Saradha Group-- Tara News and Tara Muzic—that are facing closure.
In the aftermath of the Saradha scam which had invested heavily in the media business, the I&B ministry had written to the Union home ministry to examine how it had issued security clearances to the Saradha-owned TV channels despite many adverse reports of the group’s functioning from the Intelligence Bureau, the income tax department, and banks.
The I&B ministry issues licenses to TV channels only after the home ministry gives a security clearance.
Banerjee said the decision was taken after employees of the two channels appealed for government intervention.
She said that 168 employees of the channels would get an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 16,000 each from this month. The state government would provide Rs. 26 lakh-- sale proceeds of her paintings--to run the channels. However, her government would not take the about-Rs 6 crore-liability of the channels, the CM said.
Banerjee also said that the state government would decide whether it should convene a special session of the Assembly or promulgate an ordinance since the Assembly was not in session now to execute the decision.
The Saradha group had acquired the two channels in 2011.