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BREAKING | Kerala High Court Upholds Telecast Ban On MediaOne Channel, Dismisses Appeal Against Single Bench Judgment

Hannah M Varghese
2 March 2022 4:55 AM GMT
BREAKING | Kerala High Court Upholds Telecast Ban On MediaOne Channel, Dismisses Appeal Against Single Bench Judgment
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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal moved by Malayalam news channel MediaOne against the single judge order upholding the recent ban imposed on it by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on national security grounds.A Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly upheld the order passed by the Union Ministry of Information and...

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal moved by Malayalam news channel MediaOne against the single judge order upholding the recent ban imposed on it by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on national security grounds.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly upheld the order passed by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting refusing to renew the broadcast license granted to MediaOne.

"We have perused the confidential files and we are convinced that there is threat to national security", the division bench said while pronouncing the verdict. 

Significantly, it has been found that renewal of permission is not an absolute right unmindful of other grievous situations, once the registration and permission are granted.

The Court in its judgment has observed that the appellants have failed to establish any jurisdictional error or other legal infirmities in the judgment of the single Judge warranting our interference in an intra court appeal, filed under Section 5 of the Kerala High Court Act, 1958. 

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and the Chief Editor of the channel Pramod Raman had also filed separate appeals against the single bench decision.

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

However, upon hearing the preliminary arguments set out by both sides, the Judge granted the channel an interim relief allowing it to telecast, which was extended on two occasions.

Nevertheless, while delivering the judgment, Justice N. Nagaresh held that after perusing the files from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, it has found intelligence inputs that justify the denial of security clearance to the channel. The Ministry had produced the files before the Court in a sealed cover.

In the appeal filed by Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd (the company running the channel), it has been pointed out that under the camouflage of national security, the Ministry has prohibited the broadcasting of a news channel that has been in existence for more than a decade. The Channel raised the grievance that the exact reasons of refusal were not disclosed to it.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for the channel emphasised the freedom of the press and its ambit under Article 19(1) of the Constitution through several decisions.

Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court judgment in Manoharlal Sharma Vs. Union of India(Pegasus case) where it was held that the scope of judicial review in matters pertaining to national security is limited, however, it does not mean that the State gets a free pass every time the spectre of national security is raised.

The appeal filed through Advocate Rakesh K also says that their crucial argument before the Single Judge was that at the time of renewal of broadcasting license, no fresh security clearance is required as the relevant provisions are Section 10 of the uplinking policy guidelines and Section 9 of the downlinking guidelines.

However, MediaOne alleged that this aspect was not seriously considered by the Single Judge while passing the impugned judgment.

The Court prima facie opined that from a bare reading of the provisions it seemed that revocation was a penalty. It added that the process of obtaining a security clearance seemed to be prescribed only for obtaining the licence in the first instance and not for renewal.

On the other hand, ASGI Aman Lekhi appearing for the respondents argued that the guidelines must be read as a whole and with its intent in mind.

Case Title: Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited v. Union of India

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 104

Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment 



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