The Kerala High Court on Tuesday upheld the ban imposed by the Union government on Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV, reported Bar and Bench.
The news channel had gone off air on January 31 after the Centre suspended its telecast citing “security reasons”. The channel is reported to be backed by members of the Kerala unit of Jamaat-e-Islami.
Jamaat-e-Islami is a socio-religious political organisation that the Centre had declared an “unlawful association” for five years for activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order” in 2019.
The Kerala High Court had asked the Centre on February 2 to disclose the reason behind cancelling the telecast permission of the news channel. The court had extended till February its interim order to defer the Centre’s decision to suspend the channel’s licence. The judge had also asked for the home ministry files that recommended the cancellation of security clearance of the channel.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the High Court said it has gone through the files submitted by the home ministry.
“Based on those inputs, it was found that security clearance should not be renewed,” said Justice N Nagaresh. “There are inputs which justify the decision.” The court dismissed MediaOne TV’s petition challenging the ban.
Nagaresh noted that the petitioner’s reliance on Supreme Court’s verdict in the Pegasus case was not helpful as it was rendered in the context of the right to privacy, reported Live Law.
At an earlier hearing of the case, Senior Advocate S Sreekumar, representing MediaOne TV, had cited the Pegasus spyware case to argue that national security could not be cited as a reason to cancel the channel’s licence.
At a hearing of the Pegasus spyware case in October, the Supreme Court had observed that the government could not get a “free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised”. The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions alleging the use of the spyware for unauthorised surveillance of Opposition leaders, activists and journalists.
However, in the MediaOne TV case, the Kerala High Court judge said that he had taken the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2019 Digicable (Network) India matter as a precedence. In this case, the Supreme Court had held that in matters involving television licences, petitioners have no right to prior hearing if clearance is denied on grounds of national security, according to Live Law.
MediaOne TV has has faced bans earlier as well. In 2020, the telecast of MediaOne TV, along with another Malayalam channel Asianet News, were barred for 48 hours for their coverage of the communal riots in North East Delhi.