SC lifts Centre’s telecast ban on Malayalam news channel MediaOne, says can’t use ‘National security’ claim to deny Citizens’ rights.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejects the Centre’s telecast ban against Malayalam news channel, MediaOne, and pulled up the Ministry of Home Affairs for raising national security claims out of “thin air” to deny citizens rights.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud set aside the Kerala High Court order which had upheld the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting decision to not renew the broadcast license of the channel for want of security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs
The Supreme Court severely criticised the High Court’s approaching in upholding the Centre’s decision purely on the basis of the sealed cover documents submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Top court said a channel can’t be termed as anti-establishment just because it criticized the government policies as an independent press is vital for a robust democracy.
“The press has a duty to speak truth and present citizens with hard facts, enabling them to make choices that prepare democracy in the right direction. The restriction on the freedom of the press compels citizens to think along the same tangent. A homogenized view on issues that range from socioeconomic polity to political ideologies would pose grave dangers to democracy" it said.
The Court further stated that, “the action of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting by denying the security clearance to a media channel on the basis of the views with the channel is constitutionally entitled to hold produces a chilling effect on free speech and in particularly on press freedom."
In regards to the alleged link of the channel’s shareholders to Jamaat-e-Islami, the Top Court said, Hindi is not a legitimate ground to restrict the rights of the channel.
It said the State is using national security as an excuse to deny citizens remedies provided under the law.
“National security claims cannot be made out of thin air and there must be material facts backing it,” the bench said.
Nondisclosure of reasons for the denial of security clearance, which is the sole ground for denying the permission to renew the license, and the disclosure of relevant material only to the court in a sealed cover, has violated principles of natural justice and open justice.
It added that “Sealed cover proceedings cannot be adopted to avoid the harm caused by public immunity proceedings. We are of the opinion that public immunity proceedings are a less restrictive means to safeguard the public interest.”
Court further allowed the appeals of Madhyamam
Broadcasting and other appellants and directed the Ministry of Information
& Broadcasting to renew the license within four weeks.
MediaOne, which frequently clashed with the BJP-led administration at the federal level, was forced to shut down on January 31, 2022 after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting took its name off the list of authorized channels.
On March 15, 2022, the Supreme Court had put the Kerala High Court order, which had backed the centre's decision, on hold.
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