The Kerala High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to disclose the reason behind cancelling the telecast permission of Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV, Live Law reported. The court extended its interim order deferring the Centre’s decision to suspend the channel’s licence till February 7.
Justice N Nagaresh asked for the home ministry files that suggested cancelling security clearance of the channel.
MediaOne TV, which is reportedly backed by the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami members, went off air on Monday noon despite its licence still being valid. The channel’s management at that time had said that the government has not been “forthcoming with the details” about the suspension of the telecast.
In 2020, MediaOneTV along with another Malayalam channel Asianet News had been barred for 48 hours for their coverage of the communal riots in North East Delhi.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the court asked the Centre about the reason for home ministry denying security clearance, PTI reported.
“What is your [Centre’s] objection?” the court asked. “Any issue with any of the directors or the news broadcast by them?”
Assistant Solicitor General of India S Manu told the court that the channel’s permission was cancelled due to national security reasons and these cannot be disclosed to the public, Live Law reported.
He also said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had issued a show-cause notice to the channel as its telecast permission had ended on September 29, PTI reported.
Senior Advocate S Sreekumar, representing MediaOne TV, cited the Pegasus spyware case and said that national security could not be a reason to cancel the licence.
The Supreme Court in October had rejected the Centre’s arguments about national security while hearing the Pegasus spyware case. The Union government has allegedly used the spyware for unauthorised surveillance of Opposition leaders, activists and journalists.
Sreekumar on Wednesday said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s procedure to suspend the licence was illegal.
He cited the uplinking and downlinking guidelines, according to which security clearance was only required for fresh permission and not at the time of renewal of licence.
“Our security clearance was obtained in 2010,” Sreekumar said, according to Live Law. “There was no hindrance till 2020. Only when I applied for a renewal an issue was found. Moreover, there are two distinct procedures for a fresh application and a renewal application.”
He added that the Centre must at least tell the court the exact reason behind suspending the TV channel’s licence.
The court agreed to Sreekumar’s proposition.
“You [Centre] may not give any names, but you should at least disclose why their licence was revoked,” the court said.