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Sun TV linked to spectrum deal?

delhi Updated: Feb 14, 2011 10:46 IST
Manoj Gairola
Manoj Gairola
Hindustan Times
Manoj Gairola

Astro, a sister concern of Malaysian billionaire T Ananda Krishnan-owned Aircel, invested R675 crore in the Maran family-owned Sun TV’s DTH venture within four months of getting spectrum in Dishnet Wireless (Now Aircel).

It took Dishnet two years and seven months before it could get its licences in new circles. January 31 justice Shivraj V Patil report said the clarification sought by the authorities. leading to delay in grant of licences, were "not warranted in terms of the laid down procedure".

Although Dishnet had applied for licences in April 2004 (in two circles) and in March 2005 (in the remaining five circles), it got them only in November 1, 2006. According to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) guidelines of 2003, these licences should have been issued within a month of application.

The report says DoT, under specific instructions from the communications minister’s office, delayed granting the licences by asking “irrelevant” and “vague” questions. The minister during this period — from May 2004 to May 2007 — was DMK heavyweight Dayanidhi Maran.

“On August 24, 2004, PS (private secretary) to the minister put up a note that he had been directed to seek clarification as to financial/equity between the applicant and its sister concerns holding licence elsewhere particularly in Tamil Nadu and Chennai; status of newspaper reports regarding sale of applicant or its sister concerns; verification whether applicant/its sister concerns having licences were later sold to another licence/entity and legal implications of allegation of company having violated certain licence conditions.”

These clarifications, according to the report, "besides being vague, were also irrelevant for consideration of application for grant of UASLs (unified access service licences, required to operate mobile and fixed line telephony)."

Further, "On March 30, 2005, a note was put up by secretary (DoT) that as discussed with the minister, files of the applicant were being returned with a direction that director should ascertain all the show-cause notices/advisory letters issued to the applicant/or its group companies." This delay, according to the committee, "could also result in spectrum wastage".

The company finally got its letter of intent for licences on November 1, 2006.

In less than four months, on February 22, 2007, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved an investment of $150 million by South Asia Entertainment Holdings, Mauritius, a wholly-owned unit of Astro, in the Maran family-owned Sun Direct TV, "constituting 20% of the total issued subscribed and paid up capital of the company".

Krishnan, who on a net worth of $7.6 billion, was ranked as the world's 89th wealthiest person by the Forbes in 2010, did not respond to repeated emails sent to him. Maran too did not respond to repeated emails.