SC Sets Aside Kerala HC Order On Media One Licence
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the Kerala High Court order upholding the decision of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to revoke the license of news channel Media One, stating that independent press is necessary for a robust democracy and critical views of the channel against the government policies cannot be termed as anti-establishment.
In its order, the apex court also opined that the procedure of the ‘sealed cover’ infringe the principles of natural justice and open justice.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud allowed the Media One plea challenging the Kerala High Court order which upheld the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to revoke the license of a news channel.
The top court also said the Ministry of Information Broadcasting should proceed to issue a renewal license to the channel within four weeks and the interim order of the top court is allowed to continue until the renewal permissions are granted.
The top court also remarked on the importance of an independent press for better functioning of society, saying that the critical views of media cannot be termed anti-establishment and the use of such term presumes that the press should always support the government.
The court also turned down the submission related to the alleged link of shareholders to Jamaat-e-Islami Hind saying that it is not a legitimate ground to restrict the rights of the channel. The court also noted that there was no material to show such a link.
The apex court also took into account the procedure of sealed cover practice saying that such a practice cannot be adopted to avoid the harm caused by public immunity proceedings. The top court said if the purpose can be achieved through public immunity proceedings then sealed cover proceedings should not be adopted.
The top court had earlier stayed the central government’s decision banning the Malayalam news channel and allowed it to resume broadcasting its content.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Media One plea challenging the Kerala High Court order upholding the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting order to revoke the news channel’s licence.
In the Special Leave Petition preferred by Media One, through advocate Pallavi Pratap, the channel said it has filed the petition under dire and compelling circumstances.
The petition also said it raises seminal questions of law impinging upon the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the importance of an independent, free and unbiased press guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Centre justified its decision on the ground that the denial of security clearance to the Malayalam news channel ‘Media One’ is based on intelligence inputs, which are sensitive.
The Kerala HC, on February 8, 2022, upheld the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting revoking the licence of Media One from the list of permitted news channels citing security reasons.
The HC dismissed petitions filed by the channel against the government order.
While dismissing the writ petition challenging the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Kerala HC made it clear that principles of natural justice and interference by the court in cases of national security have a very limited role. (ANI)