The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the Centre's stand on Zee Media's challenge to a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting order withdrawing the permission granted to the media house for uplinking its TV channels in Ku Band on GSAT-15 Satellite, an arrangement that allegedly gave it an unfair advantage over competitors.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice on the petition by Zee Media and granted time to the Centre to file its response.
In its petition, Zee Media has sought to set aside the ministry's September 23 order and urged the court to restore the permission granted to it on October 31, 2019, to uplink its 10 channels simultaneously on Ku band.
The 10 channels of Zee Media Corporation Ltd removed on account of the order are Zee Hindustan, Zee Rajasthan, Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal, Zee Bihar Jharkhand, Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand, Zee Salaam, Zee 24 Kalak, Zee 24 Taas and Zee Odisha (now Zee Delhi NCR Haryana).
The petitioner has contended the ministry's order was perverse as it was passed in violation of the principles of natural justice and that the complaints on the basis of which it was passed have not been shared to date with the petitioner.
“Without access to these key documents, the petitioner has been put at a grave disadvantage and is unable to exercise its right to a free and fair hearing,” it has said.
By being on the GSAT-15 satellite, these channels were accessible on DD FreeDish, effectively making them free-to-air. According to the ministry, this gave Zee an unfair advantage over competitors.
In another pending PIL before the high court, the Centre had, on August 30, said notices were issued on August 16, to 10 news channels directing them to show cause as to why permission of October 31, 2019, granted by the ministry to them for simultaneous uplinking of 10 channels in KU Band on GSAT-15 satellite from the teleport of M/s Dish TV India Ltd should not be revoked.
The high court had then directed the Centre to pass a final order in the matter after receiving the reply from those to whom the show cause notices were issued.
The PIL has claimed losses running into crores of rupees were being caused to the public exchequer because of the illegal placement of the channels uplinked by Dish TV India belonging to Zee Media Corporation.
It has been alleged that these channels were available on the DTH platform of Prasar Bharti called DD Free Dish for free, when as per rules placement/carriage of private TV channels on the DD Free Dish platform is permitted only through bidding in e-auctions, with the minimum reserve price ranging from Rs 6 crore to Rs 15 crore a year.
The PIL said the participation fee for e-auction also includes a non-refundable processing fee of Rs 25,000 and a refundable demand draft of Rs 1.50 crore in favour of Prasar Bharti.
It sought immediate stoppage of "illegal carriage" of these channels on the DD Free Dish DTH platform and an investigation into the "scam".
The matter will be heard next on January 19.