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Supreme Court issues notice on plea by Media One against ban imposed by I&B Ministry

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The Supreme Court issued notice in the plea filed by Malayalam TV news channel MediaOne challenging the order passed by the division bench of the Kerala High Court wherein the court upheld the ban imposed on it by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

A three-judge bench comprising of Justice D.Y Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vikram Nath states that,

 “We have something in our mind. What we propose to do now is to issue notice and keep the matter on next Tuesday on the application for interim relief. Respondents shall produce all the relevant documents on which the High court has placed reliance.”

Former Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohtagi appearing on behalf of MediaOne channel submitted that this is a gross case of Article 19(1)(a), the renewal after 10 years, there is no case against us and renewal does not require a security clearance assuming it does the High Court says we summon the file after the judgement is reserved. I have hundreds of employees and I have worked for 10years, now a complete shutdown. This is a clear violation of Article 19(1)(a)…. Long-standing on tv channel, 11years to survive is very difficult for these regional channels. I submit that there is nothing against us and we request for interim order let us please start. How will I feed these employees and their families? It is a small Malayalam channel.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave submitted that there is some confusion. As when he argued before the High Court, the division bench asked him if we want an order on the interim application or would he agree that it should be finally disposed of? … 

“I thought the learned judges will the judgements in a day or two, that is why I agreed. It took 4weeks after that they called for a file in our absence with great respect. Yes, we are closed but we have 2 and a half crores viewers every day and in 2019 the downlinking is granted as late as 2019”

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India dated 31.01.2022 revoked the permission of uplinking and downlinking a ‘News and Current Affairs TV Channel’ granted to M/s. Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited. Ministry of Home Affairs informed that the security clearance has been denied in the past to the proposals of the company and the security clearance considered as denied for the renewal also. 

The Union Government projected national security as a reason whereas neither in the show cause notice nor in the order, it is mentioned that there is any threat to the national security consequent to the operation of the channel by the company. 

The Centre banned the channel citing intelligence inputs they had received. Several political leaders from the ruling Left Democratic Front, as well as the opposition United Democratic Front, have condemned the move by the Central government to target media organisations. However, Media One has decided to approach the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

On January 31, a few hours after the Ministry suspended the channel’s telecast citing security concerns, MediaOne had approached the Single Judge Bench of the Kerala High Court. The channel owned by the Jamaat-e-Islami went off the air on the same day.

Although the Single Judge bench granted the channel interim relief allowing it to telecast till the case was decided, Justice N. Nagaresh held that after perusing the files from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs it found intelligence inputs that justify denial of security clearance to the channel. The Ministry had produced the files before the Court in a sealed cover.

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MediaOne had approached the Division Bench and later the bench keeping in view that the contents of confidential filed produced, agreed with the single Judge and upheld the ban imposed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting citing that national security was of utmost importance.

The Division bench led by Chief Justice, S Manikumar and Justice Shajo P Chaly also observed that we find that there are certain serious adverse reports by the Intelligence Bureau against M/s. Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited and its Managing Director.  It is true that the nature, impact, gravity and depth of the issue is not discernible from the files.”

In Manohar Lal Sharma case, in paragraph 49, it is stated that “It is a settled position of law that in matters pertaining to national security, the scope of judicial review is limited. However, this does not mean that the State gets a free pass every time the spectre of “national security” is raised.”

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