HC directs Centre to decide on plea for telecasting sports

PTI, Jan 14, 2020, 11:34 AM IST

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Centre to take a call on whether unrestricted open accessibility to the viewing of sports and entertainment channels through the Prasar Bharati would be feasible.

A bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad passed gave the direction on a PIL which wanted the Doordarshan to live telecast sporting events on its over the top (OTT) platforms in addition to its terrestrial and DTH networks on a free-to-air basis.

This was a clear subject of policy decision to be undertaken by the government after examining various factors, it said and ordered officials to take an appropriate decision supported by “cogent and plausible reasons preferably within three months.

Petitioner Aditya Modi, a Mumbai-based sound engineer, submitted that at present Doordarshan was permitted to live stream top sports events only in its terrestrial and DTH networks on a free-to-air basis.

He contended such restriction on the mode of free transmission of sports and entertainment impinges upon the fundamental rights of a citizen to receive information through the internet and other forms.

Citizens having access to the internet were being denied access to sports events of national importance because of the restriction in the sports broadcasting law.

Opposing the plea, the authorities, including the Prasar Bharti, argued none of the rights, including the fundamental rights, of citizens were being affected.

There was neither any prohibition nor restriction so as to totally deprive any citizen of such free information or broadcast of sports programmes which were being telecast as per the statutory provisions.

The court said there can be no gainsaying that the right to claim information through a particular electronic mode or application may by itself be not a fundamental right.

“But access to the internet is the norm and any restriction thereon has to be on the anvil as to whether any deviation can be allowed, it added.

It observed that the material placed before the court did not lead to any arbitrariness or discrimination in the choice of mode of transmission by Prasar Bharati.

Also, the petitioner did not seem to have made any representation before the authorities on the additional modes suggested by him.

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