Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the CBI why the agency should not investigate a case of alleged harassment of small cable operators in Punjab's Malwa region, in a notice given on Agency on 23 September 2015. Notices have also been issued to state Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, Punjab Director General of Police, Punjab Home Secretary, MD of Fastway Transmission and others on a plea by the Malwa Cable Operators Asociation.
Fastway’s has been under judicial scanner many times since its inception as in an order to create its monopoly in the cable TV market in Punjab, cable operators allege that the company is harassing thousands of small operators of the state using unethical means, trying to edge them out from the market. The Punjab and Haryana High Court issued the notices, acting on a petition by the cable operators requesting probe by the CBI into the harassment and implication of “minor cable operators carrying on business in small towns”.
In all, Justice Gupta issued notices to 11 respondents on the petition filed by Rajwinder Singh, a resident of Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda and 25 others running small cable business in the Malwa region covering about 10 districts of the state. It was alleged that Badal is running the company through his frontman Gurdeep Singh and taken over 95% of the cable business in Punjab, by misusing the police and political powers. Acording to a report in The Tribune, this is not the first time Fastway’s name has cropped up before the High Court. Challenging Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s election as SAD candidate from Bathinda, a voter had earlier claimed: “PTC News and Fastway Cable TV Network ran the election campaign of the SAD-BJP candidates in Punjab in general and that of Harsimrat in particular”. The petition was dismissed as time-barred.
Just before the Assembly polls in 2012, the HC had also directed Punjab Government to respond to the allegations of Sukhbir taking over 95 per cent of the cable business in Punjab by “misusing his official position and political power”.
Cable Operators of Punjab had even forced TRAI to close down one of the open house discussions last year till the Regulator did not take action on their complaints of harassment by Fastway MSO. The cable operators were compelled to approach TDSAT once the harassement did not stop. Operators alleged that nefarious activities of the MSO increased after government mandated digitization of cable TV networks all over the country in four phases, giving controlling power to the MSOs over last mile networks of cable operators.
The tribunal passed an order directing maintenance of status-quo on the functioning of cable operators. Since the day the order was passed, they were being harassed and involved in false cases, the petitioners contended.
Cable Operators Sangharsh Committee of Malwa region has also alleged that now they are being threatened and pressurized to withdraw the case filed by them before the TDSAT against Fastway. According to the petitioners, when they refused to withdraw the case, the deputy chief minister started getting false cases registered against the members of the committee.
Directions were also sought to the state and other respondents for protection of life and liberty.
It may be recollected that a cable operator of Amritsar, Jaswinder Singh Jassi had committed suicide on 28 March 2015 infront of TDSAT judges and judges from High Court during a TDSAT seminar in Amritsar. He was one of the LCO who had complained against Fastway in TDSAT and was also a prosecution witness in Siti Cable sex scandal case scam where Sarabjit Singh was chargsheeted. Later on the case was hushed up by Fastway by paying money to Jassi’s family who has left the city after his death.