SC stays Centre’s ban on Malayalam TV news channel

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the Centre’s ban, on national security grounds, on Malayalam TV news channel Media One

A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: “At the present stage, we are of the view that a case for the grant of interim relief has been made out on behalf of the petitioners having due regard to the contents of the files which have been perused by the Court.”

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, added: “We accordingly order and direct that pending further orders, the order of the Union government dated January 31, 2022 revoking the security clearance which was granted to the petitioner, Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, shall remain stayed.”

The bench allowed the petitioners to continue operating the news and current affairs TV channel called Media One on the same basis on which the channel was being operated immediately prior to the revocation of the clearance on January 31, 2022.

Senior advocate Dushyant A. Dave, representing the TV channel, assailed the approach of the Kerala High Court in declining to disclose the contents of the files to the petitioners. He pressed the application for interim relief and submitted that there is no objection to the top court perusing the files. During the course of the hearing, the bench examined the files.

Additional Solicitors General K.M. Nataraj and S.V. Raju represented the Centre before the top court. The bench asked the Centre to file a counter-affidavit on or before March 30, 2022.

The bench said: “The issue as to whether the contents of the files should be disclosed to the petitioners in order to enable them to effectively pursue their challenge in these proceedings is expressly kept open to be resolved before the petitions are taken up for final disposal. The files shall be produced in the Court on the next date of listing.”

“We clarify that perusal of the files by the Court at this stage is not an expression on the tenability of the contentions of the petitioners that they would be entitled to inspect the files. The issue is kept open to be resolved at the stage of the final disposal.”

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on April 7.

On March 10, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on a plea by the Malayalam news channel Media One challenging the Kerala High Court order, which upheld Centre’s decision to not renew its telecast licence on national security grounds.

Media One had moved the top court after 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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