Govt seeks to curb powers of Prasar Bharati CEO

Govt seeks to curb powers of Prasar Bharati CEO

New Delhi: The government is mulling curbing the powers of Prasar Bharati’s chief executive officer (CEO) following charges against B.S. Lalli, the former head of the public broadcaster, over Commonwealth Games contracts, an official said.

Once some proposed amendments in the Prasar Bharati Act come into force, the process to remove its CEO will become easier, the information and broadcasting ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The amendments will also empower the ministry to order the telecast of an event of national importance on Doordarshan, he said.

“During the Commonwealth Games last year, Lalli took all the decisions which resulted in a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) case into award of the broadcasting contracts," the official said. “It was felt that despite the presence of oversight committee, Lalli managed to take all decisions because of the powers the Prasar Bharati Act confers on the CEO."

Officials said one of the key amendments the ministry has moved for the cabinet’s consideration is the inclusion of a clause according to which “inefficiency" is a criterion for the removal of the CEO.

A board that will include the vice-president, chairperson of the Press Council of India and the information and broadcasting ministry will have powers to appoint and remove the CEO, they said.

Under existing law, the Prasar Bharati CEO cannot be removed without the consent of the President and the Supreme Court.

The amendments have been proposed through an ordinance expected to be approved by the cabinet this week, another ministry official said, requesting anonymity. “If the cabinet approves, in three-four weeks the amendments can formally be implemented," the official said.

Another amendment is to reduce the eligibility age of Prasar Bharati board members to 55 years from 62. “The idea is to get in more young and professional members in the board," another official said, adding that the minimum age for the chairperson and the CEO will remain as per the previous Act. The members, as per the changes proposed, will have a tenure of three years against the six-year term earlier.

Mint’sAbhilasha Ojha contributed to this story.