The information and broadcasting ministry has sought legal opinion on whether public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s Chief Executive Officer B S Lalli can continue in office after April.
The move comes at a time when the Prasar Bharati board is caught in a tussle between Lalli and chairman Arun Bhatnagar over alleged procedural irregularities, and broadcasting rights for the Commonwealth Games 2010.
Last year, the ministry had made an amendment to the Prasar Bharati Act, fixing the retirement age of the broadcaster’s chairman at 70 and that of the CEO at 65. The change was essentially made to oust the then chairman, M V Kamath, appointed by the NDA government. Bhatnagar replaced Kamath.
When Lalli was appointed the CEO two years ago, the age of retirement was 62. He turns 62 later this month.
The ministry wants to know if the amendment will be applicable in Lalli’s case. One view is that the amended law cannot be applied with retrospective effect, while the other view is if it could be applied in Kamath’s case, it would be valid in Lalli’s as well.
The ministry had sought the views of the vice-president’s office, the appointing authority for the CEO, but it returned the same, seeking law ministry’s opinion. Sources close to Lalli, however, said the law was clear and he had three more years to go.
Three board members — George Verghese, R N Bisaria and Sunil Kapoor, who wrote to the prime minister seeking a probe into the Prasar Bharati affairs — are against an extended tenure for Lalli.