The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to produce files based on which it had refused to renew the licence of the Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV, PTI reported. The Central government in February had cited “national security grounds” to justify the ban.
“The respondents shall produce relevant files on which reliance was placed by the high court in the impugned judgement,” read the Supreme Court order, according to IANS.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath issued a notice on the appeal by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, which runs the news channel, against the Kerala High Court’s order. The High Court on March 2 had upheld the Centre’s ban on the TV channel stating that it had examined the confidential files about the matter, and was convinced that “there is a threat to national security”.
MediaOne TV had gone off air on January 31. The channel is reportedly backed by the Kerala unit of Jamaat-e-Islami, a socio-religious political organisation that was declared “unlawful” by the Centre for five years in 2019. While announcing the channel’s suspension, the Centre had said that the association’s activities were “prejudicial to internal security and public order”.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented MediaOne TV, on Thursday said that the channel had not received a single complaint in 10 years, Live Law reported.
Advocate Dushyant Dave, who also spoke for the channel, said that the channel had received downlinking permission in 2019. Downlinking allows a communication channel to receive electronic messages from the satellite.
“For a regional channel to survive is very difficult,” he said. “We have hundreds of employees. How do we feed them? We request interim relief.”
Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited in its appeal has said that “threat to national security” was cited as a “ruse” to cancel the channel’s licence. Their appeal also cited the Supreme Court’s observation during a hearing of the Pegasus spyware case in October last year. The top court had then said that the Centre could not get a “free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security is raised”.
The appeal also said that the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to revoke the channel’s licence violated Article 19(1) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and Article 14 which provides for equality before the law.
The channel had said it was a “deplorable” fact that a showcause notice was issued when the channel applied for renewal of its licence. The appeal also stated that the licence had been revoked without any “genuine cause” and had put the lives of 350 employees in turmoil.
The next hearing will take place on March 15.