President Pratibha Patil has formally assented to the suspension of Prasar Bharati CEO BS Lalli, pending a Supreme Court inquiry against him into allegations of corruption, and administrative and financial mismanagement.
Rashtrapati Bhavan sources confirmed that the President signed the file, late on Tuesday night, on the eve of her departure to Hyderabad.
HT had reported on December 10 that the ministry is likely to ask an official of the rank of additional secretary to the Government of India, or higher, to assume temporary charge immediately after Lalli’s suspension orders are issued.
When assenting to the Supreme Court inquiry against Lalli, the President had suo motu asked the government to examine whether Lalli could be suspended pending inquiry. On Friday, the I & B Ministry replied recommending Lalli’s suspension.
Patil’s assent to the inquiry and the query on suspension came after the Prime Minister’s Office sent her a report by the Central Vigilance Commission, which alleged corruption, financial and administrative mismanagement in the public broadcaster.
In keeping with the provisions of the Prasar Bharati Act, the President’s assent is required to inquire against, prosecute, suspend, or dismiss Lalli.
The primary allegations indicated in the CVC report suggest that Lalli overlooked All India Radio’s paying “higher” rates to get commentary rights in various cricket series.
He is alleged to have failed to convene meeting of a committee with regard to handling of these matches b AIR and Doordarshan and failed to ensure proper marketing of some of the cricket series between 2007 and 2008.
A key charge against Lalli was that he did not ensure telecast of the T-20 World Cup in 2007 on Doordarshan. The allegation was that by not forcing the rights holder to share its feed with DD, Lalli allowed the rights holder to gain financially. There was also a charge of breach of Parliamentary Privilege in this.
Lalli, however, has been defending himself as a victim of “intrigue and mischief”. “A lot of intrigue and mischief has been going on within the organisation which has unfortunately been abetted and encouraged by powerful elements from outside aimed at not only the demonising of an individual…” he said.