Bombay HC declines to entertain Republic TV’s plea alleging that Shiv Sena has threatened Cable Operators to take the channel off air

In a setback to the Republic TV Network, the Bombay High Court has declined to entertain a writ petition by Republic TV and Republic TV Bharat proprietor, ARG Outliers against Digital Multi-System Operators (Cable TV Operators).

The Network had sought the Court’s intervention in restraining Cable TV Operators from taking the Network’s channels off air. (ARG Outlier Media Private Ltd. & Anr. v. Union of India and Ors.)

Alleging that the “Shiv Cable Sena” had threatened Cable TV Operators with public agitations if its channels were not taken off the air, the Network apprehended that Cable TV Operators would halt the transmission of its channels.

The Government’s Counsel Jyoti Chavan argued that a writ against the Shiv Sena was improper since the Sena was a private entity.

The Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav stated that the Network could approach the appropriate law enforcement authority against the Sena’s intimidation.

Apart from this, the Sena’s threats as alleged had no legal force, since it was a private entity and could not impact the contractual relationship between Republic and the Cable TV Operators, nor its license to broadcast, the Court ruled.

The (…) 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”, reads the order.

Republic TV’s Counsel, Senior Advocate Nikhil Sakhardande conceded that the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal would have been the ideal forum to adjudicate its grievances, but submitted that the Tribunal was closed till September 18. The Network sought the Court’s intervention to restrain Cable Operators from taking the Channels off air until the Tribunal commenced functioning.

The Court observed that the Cable TV Operators had not yet taken down the channels, at least insofar as the Court was concerned since this fact was not placed on record by the Petitioners. Even if the Operators did halt the transmission of the channels, it could not be argued that it was solely on account of the intimidating messages from the Sena, the Court further reasoned.

With these observations, the Court disposed of the petition.

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