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 Up loaded on Sunday December 19, 2010

Prasar Bharati CEO on his way out soon

          The I&B ministry has moved for suspension of controversial Prasar Bharati CEO B S Lalli. The note that has been sent to the Prime Minister's Office includes additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran's recommendation that Lalli's continued presence may impede working of the national broadcaster and the officer should be suspended pending the Supreme Court inquiry on financial irregularities raised by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

        The letter will have to be sent by the government to President Pratibha Patil for her assent as mandated under the Prasar Bharati Act. The move comes over a week after the President gave her nod for a SC inquiry into the financialwrongdoings in the running of Prasar Bharati.

        If suspended, curtains will finally come down on Lalli's tenure that has been marked by several controversies -- the latest being the outsourcing of broadcast of the Commonwealth Games to a little known UK-based firm SIS Live. Despite financial allegations, Lalli has been firm in his defence welcoming the inquiry and hoping that the "true picture" would emerge. He has dismissed the CVC report and its findings as baseless allegations.

       The CVC report had found fault on five counts. He has been accused of breach of Parliamentary privilege, giving undue favours to some broadcast companies and financial mismanagement. Lalli (63), a 1971 batch IAS officer of the UP cadre, has been engaged in a feud with the Prasar Bharati Board on running the organisation.

        Earlier, on August 2, ASG Parasaran had asked the I&B ministry to refer Lalli's case to the President and subsequently for a Supreme Court inquiry to initiate his removal as there was enough prima-facie evidence in the CVC report. The report with the recommendations was sent to the PMO, who sent it back to the law ministry for a second opinion.

         Attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati in his opinion said the CEO should be given a chance to give his version of events against the charges before the case was referred to the President.

         The final report with Lalli's version was sent by the I&B ministry to the PMO and subsequently to the President in November. The President gave her nod for a SC inquiry earlier this month.

         Prasar Bharati was formed in 1997 as a public service broadcaster. This is the first time that its CEO faces the prospect of being removed from the post and is a test case of sorts.

          According to the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990, the CEO can be removed only by the Supreme Court, after a reference is made to it by the President.

         Lalli's exit is unlikely to affect Prasar Bharati's functioning. In an earlier order, the Delhi High Court had directed a three-member committee, including Prasar Bharati member, finance and personnel, to jointly handle day-to-day decisions.


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