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President Gives Assent For SC Probe Into Charges Against Lalli

PTI 09 Dec 2010, 20:58:58 IST
New Delhi, Dec 9 (PTI) The President has given her assent for a Supreme Court inquiry into charges of financial mismanagement against controversial Prasar Bharti CEO B S Lalli, setting in motion the process for his removal from the post.

Official sources said President Pratibha Patil's assent came on a reference made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as required under the Prasar Bharti Act.

According to the Act, the Chairman or a Member of Prasar Bharti can only be removed by an order of the president on the ground of misbehaviour after the Supreme Court holds an inquiry following a reference to it.

Pending inquiry, the chief executive officer can be placed under suspension as per the provisions of the Act.

Lalli, who assumed the CEO's office in December 2006, was indicted by the Central Vigilance Commission which accused him of breach of Parliamentary privilege, giving undue favours to some broadcast companies and financial mismanagement.

The Presidential reference to the apex court for instituting an inquiry into the charges against him sets in motion his removal process.

The controversial 1971 batch IAS officer of UP cadre, Lalli, 63, has been having a feud with the Prasar Bharti Board on running the organisation.Efforts to contact Lalli did not succeed

Reacting to the presidential reference, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said the action is "too late".

"It is too late. It is also part of the loot. We are saying it earlier also about CWG... one after another is happening," he told reporters outside Parliament.

"It is all because of the pressure by the Opposition in Parliament all these things are happening. Otherwise the government was totally unmoved," Naidu said and added "he (Lalli) should go if he has committed any mistake."

Welcoming the decision, SP leader Mohan Singh said "This is a good decision taken by the President we welcome it. We have raised it in the Rajya Sabha."

Singh said, "Even employees of Prasar Bharati had also launched agitation against his (Lalli) autocratic way of functioning. He was not listening to anybody."

Prasar Bharati CEO B S Lalli, today said "a lot of intrigue and mischief" has been going on within the organisation against him and expressed the hope that the probe would present the "true picture".

Reacting to news of President giving assent for an inquiry by the Supreme Court into charges of administrative and financial irregularities against him, he said the intrigue and mischief was "abetted and encouraged by powerful elements from outside" aimed at "demonising an individual".

Singh, against whom the process of removal has been set in motion by the government, expressed the hope that the inquiry gets finalised quickly so that the "true picture" is known to the public at large.

In a press release, Singh said while on the one hand he was sad that he has to face this situation after nearly 40 years of "unblemished" service in the IAS, on the other he derived comfort from the fact that he would finally be heard.

"At long last, due focus would be given to facts rather than conjectures, half-truths and plain lies," he said.

The allegations are: engagement by Prasar Bharati of expensive, senior advocates in a few cases, payment of 'higher' rates by AIR to get commentary rights in some cricket series and non-convening of meetings of a Committee in regard to some cricket matches and 'improper' settling of the management of marketing of a few cricket series between the rights holder and Doordarshan.

The fourth charge related to non-telecast of T-20 World Cup in 2007 on Doordarshan implying thereby that a possible financial gain was permitted to be made by the rights holder. A charge has been made that parliamentary privilege was breached by this non-telecast.

"I would only state that 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, but also the derailment of a premier democratic institution.

"Available record clearly and unequivocally sheds light on the transparency, good faith and sound commercial judgement in respect of all these matters.

"Judicial scrutiny, I am sure, will also show that fallacious interpretation of relevant provisions of law and rules was made to arrive at certain 'conclusions' and that presumptions and prejudice held the field while the facts on record were not not even acknowledged," he said. PTI