The Bombay High Court on Friday said that it was not necessary to pass any orders to restrain Cable TV operators from stopping the telecast of the Republic TV and Republic Bharat, as the alleged call for boycott made by 'Shiv Cable Sena', an affiliate of the major partner of the ruling coalition Shiv Sena, has no "effect in law" as it was not a statutory authority.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by Republic TV's parent company ARG Outlier Media Private Limited against Cable Network Operators, for not stopping the broadcast of the TV channels namely Republic TV and Republic TV Bharat after Shiv Cable Sena allegedly sent a threatening letter to various cable network operators to stop airing the petitioner's channels or face public agitation.
A Division Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav heard the writ petition and observed Shiv Cable Sena is not a statutory authority and the communication issued by it has, therefore, no effect in law. Court noted that as for the intimidating letter written on September 10, the recipient petitioners have "their remedies of approaching law enforcement agencies like any other citizen."
Senior Advocate Nikhil Sakhardande appeared on behalf of the petitioner company and submitted that as regards the dispute between the Cable Network Operators and the petitioners, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) is the appropriate authority. However, as per the notification issued by it, it is not functioning till September 18.
Therefore, because of this position, the High Court should entertain the petition and issue necessary directions to the respondents – State and Union of India to ensure smooth broadcast of the TV channels, Adv Sakhardande said.
Additional Government Pleader Jyoti Chavan argued that the petitioners' grievance is against private entities and the writ petition is not an appropriate remedy, and the petitioners can file a Civil Suit, besides the other available statutory remedies.
The bench observed-
"We have considered the rival contentions. The Respondent No.5 Shiv Cable Sena is not a statutory authority to either supersede the license granted to the Petitioners or to interfere in the contractual/statutory relationship between the Petitioners and the Cable Network Operators. The communication issued by it has, therefore, no effect in law.
If the Cable Network Operators breach the contractual/statutory relationship with the Petitioners, the Petitioners have the remedy of approaching the appropriate Authority. The Petitioners have sought a restraint order till the reopening of the Tribunal on the ground that the Cable Network Operators may stop airing the TV channels of the Petitioners pursuant to the communication by the Respondent No.5."
Disposing of the petition, the bench noted-
"It is not brought to our notice that any Cable Network Operator has ceased to air the two TV channels as of now. Even if the Cable Network Operators do cease to air the concerned channels, it is not possible for us to presume that it is only because of the communication issued by the Respondent No.5, or for any other reason.
As regards the intimidating communications are concerned, the recipients have their remedies of approaching the Law Enforcement Authorities like any other citizen. In these circumstances, we do not deem it necessary to pass any further orders. Clarifying the position as above, the Writ Petition is disposed of."