The Supreme Court on Thursday, March 10, sought a response from the Union government on a plea by Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV against the Kerala High Court order upholding the Union government’s decision to ban its telecast on security grounds. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath said that it is issuing a notice on the petition and will ask the Union government to place on record the file which was relied on by the Kerala High Court. The Union government has been asked to respond by March 15.
“Issue notice returnable on March 15, 2022 on the Special Leave Petition and application for interim relief. Respondents (Union government) shall produce all the relevant files on which reliance was placed by the high court,” the court said.
At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, Dushyant Dave and Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the channel, submitted that the ban on telecast is a case of “gross abuse of power.”
Rohatgi submitted that the renewal of licence does not require a security clearance and that the channel has been running for 12 years. “I have been completely shut down. We are a small regional channel. I have hundreds of employees who have families to feed. Interim relief be granted,” he said, adding that there are over 2.5 crore viewers and in 2019, the channel was granted permission for downlinking.
The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on next Tuesday, March 15. On March 7, the top court had agreed to hear a plea by Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV against the Kerala High Court order upholding the Union government's decision to ban its telecast on security grounds.
Earlier, the Kerala High Court upheld the Union government's decision to bar telecast of the Malayalam news channel and had dismissed the plea of Madhyamam Broadcasting Ltd — which operates MediaOne TV — challenging the Union government's January 31 decision.
The high court had said that the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to deny security clearance was based on intelligence inputs received from various agencies. The central government had also said that the MHA denied security clearance over national security concerns based on intelligence inputs.
The channel had contended that MHA clearance was only required at the time for fresh permission/license and not at the time of renewal. It had also contended that, according to the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, security clearance was only required at the time of application for fresh permission and not at the time of renewal of licence.