SC agrees to hear Media One channel plea against Centre’s telecast ban

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The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea by Malayalam news channel Media One challenging the Kerala High Court order, which upheld Centre’s decision to not renew its telecast licence.

The Centre had cited national security grounds to justify the ban.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli agreed to list the petition for hearing later this week. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave mentioned the petition before the bench seeking urgent listing.

Submitting that the organisation has functioned for 11 years, and the channel has 350 employees and millions of viewers, Dave said: “We have been shut down due to some secret files from the Home Ministry and the court has justified it behind our back. It’s too serious a matter relating to the right to information and freedom of press.”

After a brief hearing, the Chief Justice agreed to list the matter this week.

Media One had moved the top court after the Kerala High Court upheld the ban imposed on it by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The Malayalam TV channel plea said: “The present petition has been filed under dire and compelling circumstances, and 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 our Constitution.”

The plea added, “The Petitioner was served with a Show Cause Notice on January 5, 2022 to revoke the permission granted earlier and on January 31, 2022 the Respondent No 1 passed an Order revoking the permission on the ground of ‘National Security and Public Order’.”

A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chali noted when certain issues with respect to the security of the state are concerned, the government is at liberty to decline to renew the permission granted, without disclosing the complete reasons for the non-renewal.

The high court on March 2 dismissed the appeals filed by the channel’s management and journalists challenging a February 9 single-bench order, which refused to lift the ban.

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