The ban on Malayalam news channel Media One TV was upheld by a division bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday, dismissing the appeals of the management and journalists who had challenged a February 9 single-bench order that had refused to lift it.
In response to the decision, Media One TV announced that they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The division bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chali held that when certain issues involving the security of the state are involved, the government is free to refuse to renew the permission granted without disclosing the full reasons for the non-renewal.
On the basis of the report of the Intelligence Bureau and other investigating agencies, the division bench observed that certain aspects of the files produced before it affect public order or the security of the state. After the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused to give the channel clearance for “security reasons,” the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry banned the channel.
The ban on the channel, which is backed by the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami, was upheld by a single bench of the high court on February 9. Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, which owns Media One TV, appealed to the division bench on February 11 against the single bench order.
The bench listened intently to the I&B Ministry and the media house before reserving the orders.
“Certain aspects relating to the security of the State have mentioned to the effect that Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited has some linkages with certain undesirable forces, which is stated to be a security threat,” the division bench said on Wednesday (March 2).
“State security and public order are very important for the fair and smooth functioning of the nation,” the bench continued, “and thus, importance and significance shall be given to the interests of the citizens of this country, rather than other aspects.”
We believe that the learned single Judge was correct in declining to interfere with the Union Government’s order refusing to renew Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited’s uplinking and downlinking permission for telecast operations through ‘Media One TV’, after considering all relevant factors, including the contents of the confidential files produced before us.
The Union government told the court that the MHA had formed a committee of officers based on input from various intelligence agencies, which determined that the channel’s security clearance should not be renewed.
Previously, the single bench of N Nagaresh had found material and intelligence reports supporting the channel’s ban after reviewing files submitted by the MHA.
After reviewing the files submitted by the MHA, the single bench temporarily postponed the ban’s implementation but refused to intervene in the case.
The management claimed that the reasons for the ban were not disclosed, resulting in a denial of natural justice and a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 19(1), and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
However, the Union government stated that in a matter of national security, a party cannot insist on strict adherence to natural justice principles. If the rules do not expressly provide for statutory exclusion, it is the court’s responsibility to read into them and provide for it.
The above-mentioned cancellations and denials of permission to appoint directors took place and were not challenged by the company.