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Centre’s security clearance process for FM auction vague: Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today termed as “vague” and open to “misuse” the Centre’s process for granting security clearance to radio channels for participating in the stage III FM auction and asked the government to consider postponing it.

A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said “things are not spelt out as to what you (Centre) mean by security clearance. The clause (requiring company and directors of radio company to be security cleared) is vague. It can be misused.”

“Nobody knows what you mean by security clearance (here). In a democracy, you have to move towards greater transparency and not secrecy,” the bench said to the government after its counsel, Sanjiv Narula argued it is not required to inform the company about the criteria of security clearance.

The observations were made by the court during hearing of a plea by Digital Radio Broadcasting Ltd against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s (I&B) decision to refuse its radio channel, Red FM, permission to participate in the third phase of FM auctions.

Their application to participate in the auction was rejected as they were not given security clearance by the Union Home Ministry on the ground that Kalanithi Maran, a shareholder in the radio channel, was facing prosecution in a money laundering case, as per their plea.

The court observed that rejection of Red FM’s application and refusal of security clearance amounted to “blacklisting” and for that they had to be given an opportunity to be heard.

Entertainment Network India Ltd (ENIL), which runs Radio Mirchee, intervened in the matter and said “conditional participation” be not allowed as it could affect the final outcome of the auction, especially if Red FM is not successful in the present petition.

The court too agreed with ENIL’s submission and suggested to the Centre to consider postponing the auction, currently scheduled for July 27, so that it can hear the matter properly.

Narula said he would inform the court tomorrow on whether the auction schedule can be altered.