SC asks Centre to produce records on MediaOne ban by Tuesday

ByAbraham Thomas
Mar 10, 2022 09:03 PM IST

The ‘Media One’ channel was banned by the union ministry of information and broadcasting after the ministry of home affairs refused to give clearance to the channel on grounds of national security.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on a petition filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami-affiliated ‘Media One’ channel questioning the ban on its broadcast imposed by the Centre on grounds of national security. The Malayalam regional channel on news and current affairs earlier approached the Kerala high court which upheld the ban on March 2.

The Supreme Court has posted the MediaOne ban matter for hearing on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court has posted the MediaOne ban matter for hearing on Tuesday.

Posting the matter for hearing on Tuesday, a bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath ordered the Centre to produce all the relevant files that were relied upon by the high court before passing its order.

The channel, owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, was represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, Dushyant Dave and Huzefa Ahmadi who told the Court that the high court relied on some sealed cover documents submitted by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to which the channel owners were not privy to.

“This is a gross case where a channel with 25 million viewers and more than 350 employees has been shut down without giving any reason. For a regional television channel to survive is difficult. Allow us to start. What will we feed our employees and their families who depend on us?”

The channel in its appeal challenging the high court order said that the order was passed “behind its back” without giving reasons. On the day when orders were reserved by the high court, the judges had called for the files from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) refusing security clearance to the channel which formed the basis for rejecting the channel’s appeal.

The high court division bench, while dismissing the appeal by the channel management and employees, said, “Certain aspects relating to the security of the State are mentioned to the effect that Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited has some linkages with certain undesirable forces, which is stated to be a security threat”.

Rohatgi said, “The channel had applied for renewal of its uplinking and downlinking license that was to expire in September last year. The renewal does not require security clearance. Yet the high court relied on it to uphold revocation of the license.”

Dave told the Court, “It is high time this practice must stop. The files submitted by Centre came on the day when order was reserved. We argued that renewal does not need security clearance. In 2019, downlinking permission for the channel was renewed.”

The MHA granted security clearance to the channel in February 2011 following which license to operate Media One was provided in September 2011 for a 10-year period. After the channel applied for renewal of its license, it was served with a show cause notice by the Centre on January 5 for revoking the permission on the grounds of ‘national security and public order’. On January 31, the permission was revoked.

The channel had lost 2 successive rounds of challenge against the Centre’s ban - before a single judge on February 8 followed by the division bench’s March 2 order. In February 2020, the channel’s license was briefly suspended by MHA following its coverage of the Delhi riots.

The petition said, “There is no single complaint against the petitioner for which any action could be taken against it in last 10 years. Renewal is a matter of right, unless a channel has been damned on 5 prior occasions…the division bench held that even for renewal, security clearance is an inseparable link. Therefore, there is a clear error which has been committed by the division bench in passing the impugned judgment.”

The channel further said the decision to call for the files was taken on February 10, the day when arguments of both sides concluded. “This direction to produce the file is passed behind the back of the petitioner,” the plea said.

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