President Pratibha Patil set off the process of removing Prasar Bharati CEO BS Lalli by referring a Central Vigilance Commission report on administrative and financial irregularities for a Supreme Court probe.
Patil’s assent came two days ago on a reference made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Although Lalli can now be placed under suspension, senior government officials remained tightlipped on the timing of the move.
According to the Prasar Bharati Act, the chairman or a member of the Prasar Bharati board can be removed only by an order of the President after the Supreme Court holds an inquiry, following a reference.
Lalli (63), member (executive) of the board and CEO of the public broadcaster, is a 1971 batch IAS officer of the UP cadre, has been having a feud with other board members and the information and boradcasting ministry since he assumed office in December 2006.
Reacting to the presidential reference, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said, “It is too late. It is also part of the loot… It is because of the pressure by the Opposition in Parliament that all these things are happening. Otherwise, the government was totally unmoved.”
The charges against Lalli are, among other things, appointing expensive advocates, payment of higher rates by All India Radio for commentary rights and failing to convene meetings of a committee on handling of commentary rights.
What’s more, the fourth charge relating to the non-telecast of the T-20 World Cup in 2007 by Doordarshan implied that a possible financial gain was permitted to the rights holder, besides breaching parliamentary privilege.
Lalli, however, said “a lot of intrigue and mischief” had been going on within Prasar Bharati and hoped that the probe would present the “true picture”.