Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal against non-renewal of Media One channel licence on March 10

A view of Supreme Court of India.

A view of Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on March 7 agreed to list on March 10 an appeal filed by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited against the Kerala High Court decision upholding the government’s move to not renew the licence of its TV channel, Media One, on the ground of “national security and public order”.

Making an urgent oral mentioning before Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana, who is leading a three-judge Bench, senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Haris Beeran, appearing for the media company, urged that the case was “too serious” to be heard late and should be taken up early as it concerned issues of free speech, free Press and the right to information of the public. The issue also concerned the livelihood of over 350 journalists.

The CJI agreed to Mr. Dave’s request to list the case on March 10.

The private broadcaster said the renewal of licence was “a matter of right” as it had not faced a single complaint from the government in the past 10 years of its existence.

The government’s action raised seminal questions of law impinging on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the importance of an independent, free and unbiased Press guaranteed by the Constitution, the media company said.

Its petition has noted that renewal of licence, governed by clauses nine and 10 of the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, does not require security clearance. Only fresh applicants for licence need the mandatory security clearance.

“The only factor to be looked into is as to whether the media company has violated any one of the conditions or norms for five consecutive times in the last 10 years. It is submitted that as far as the petitioner is concerned, there is not a single complaint against the petitioner for which any action could be taken against the petitioner in the last 10 years,” the petition has submitted.

The media company has said it could not put up an effective reply or rebut the show cause notice issued by the government because hardly any reasons were given in it.

The company had said the High Court’s Division Bench, which affirmed the earlier Single Bench decision in favour of the government, had merely said that there were “certain facts affecting public order or security of the State”. The company was also not given an opportunity to defend itself against the original files produced by the government in the High Court.

“Security of the State with regard to the media means nothing less than endangering the foundations of the State or threatening its overthrow,” the petition had referred to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in its Romesh Thapar case judgment.

Referring to the recent Pegasus case order of the Supreme Court, the petition said the state did not get a “free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’s is raised” in court.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 5:51:00 pm |