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Natural Justice Principles Have Limited Role In Matters Of National Security : Kerala High Court In MediaOne Case

Hannah M Varghese
8 Feb 2022 4:11 PM GMT
Natural Justice Principles Have Limited Role In Matters Of National Security : Kerala High Court In MediaOne Case
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The Kerala High Court on Monday while upholding the order of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting revoking the broadcast license granted to Malayalam news channel MediaOne observed that the principles of natural justice have to give way when national security is at threat. In the judgment that runs into 42 pages, Justice N. Nagaresh has contemplated this issue in...

The Kerala High Court on Monday while upholding the order of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting revoking the broadcast license granted to Malayalam news channel MediaOne observed that the principles of natural justice have to give way when national security is at threat. 

In the judgment that runs into 42 pages, Justice N. Nagaresh has contemplated this issue in several paragraphs before concluding that in matters of national security, the judiciary and principles of natural justice have a very restricted role to play. 

"From the law laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court, it is clear that the principles of natural justice and interference by courts in the matter of national security, have very limited role."

The writ petition was filed by Maadhyamam Broadcasting Ltd, the company running the channel, a few hours after the Ministry suspended its telecast citing security concerns. Accordingly, MediaOne, which is owned by Jamaat-e-Islami, went off the air on the same day.

Senior Advocate S Sreekumar for the channel urged that rejecting the permission granted for uplinking and downlinking of MediaOne without affording an opportunity of hearing was highly arbitrary and violative of the principles of natural justice. 

He further pointed out that the actions evidenced by the show-cause notice and cancellation, are illegal, unconstitutional and are in violation of the fundamental principles of natural justice.  

Assistant Solicitor General of India S. Manu relied on the judgment of the Apex Court in Ex Armymen's Protection Services Pvt Ltd v. Union of India & Ors [(2014) 5 SCC 409], where it was held that in a situation of national security, a party cannot insist for the strict observance of the principles of natural justice.

In rebuttal, the senior counsel for the channel argued that in Ex-Armymen's case relied on by the respondents, the security clearance was issued to the company for 5 years and later, the company received information that the security clearance was withdrawn in the national interest. 

Senior Advocate Jaju Babu, appearing for the Kerala Union of Working Journalists and Chief Editor Pramod Raman of Media One, supplemented the submissions of Sreekumar.

The Court noted that it was in that context that the Apex Court held that in a situation of national security, a party cannot insist on strict observance of the principles of natural justice.

Justice Nagaresh also quoted Sir William Wade from Administrative Law 10th Edition:

"...any restriction, limitation or exception on principles of natural justice is 'only an arbitrary boundary'. The right to a fair hearing may have to yield to overriding considerations of national security...Since national security must be paramount, natural justice must then give way."

Finally, the Court referred to another Supreme Court decision in Digi Cable Network (India) Private Limited v. Union of India and others [AIR 2019 SC 455] where it was reiterated that in a situation of national security, a party cannot insist on the strict observance of the principles of natural justice.

Justice Nagaresh further said that the petitioner's reliance on Supreme Court's Pegasus judgment was not worthwhile as it was rendered in the context of the right to privacy.

Accordingly, finding force in the arguments raised by the Centre and being convinced of a threat of national security posed by the channel as per the reports received from the Union, the petition was dismissed. 

The Court also included a quote from 'Atrisamhita', an ancient Indian Text dating back to Rigveda period, to describe the contours of sovereign functions of state as follows :

"To punish the criminals, to protect the good, to enrich the treasury by just methods, to be impartial to all and to protect the Nation – these are five fundamental duties to be performed by the State. The concept of good governance would take in within its ambit, a secured State. Ensuring national security involves avoiding any possibility that may threaten national security. The national security is an executive responsibility, where Legislature and Judiciary have only complementary roles"



Case Title: Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited v. Union of India and connected matters

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 68

Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment



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