Suspended Prasar Bharti CEO BS Lalli forced the public broadcaster to pay “unjustifiably high fees” to the government and private lawyers amounting to Rs 5 crore flouting the rules, the probe panel has concluded.
The PM-appointed VK Shunglu panel has also slammed the questionable legal opinions sought by the Prasar Bharti Corporation in matters related to the telecast of Commonwealth Games held last October.
The Shunglu panel has relied on the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report to put Lalli in the dock for the “payment of exorbitant legal fees” to lawyers appearing in cases which included those challenging his continuation in the job.
Official documents show that the Doordarshan (DD) paid around R5 crore to government and private lawyers representing it in the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court between 2007 and 2009.
This was 12 times more than R40 lakh spent on lawyers between 2004 and 2007 for the official litigation.
“Vigilance inquiry found that from the year 2006 to 2009 there was exponential increase in payments made to the legal entities by Prasar Bharti and 78% of these payments was on account of engaging senior private advocates at ad hoc rates.”
“The panel of regular advocates was reduced to create grounds for increased engagment of private advocates…. The whole process was based on decisions taken by the CEO without the approval of the Prasar Bharti Board,” stated the Shunglu panel report.
According to CVC officials, the existing norms permit Prasar Bharti to engage lawyers from an empanelled list for ‘R15,000 per appearance.
The CVC report had indicted Lalli for paying ‘a minimum fees’ of R2 lakh to external advocates for one appearance.
Six law officers of the government were paid R1.10 crore in cases related to shutting out some private channels from the DD’s direct-to-home service.