No interim relief was granted to the Malayalam news channel MediaOne by the Kerala High Court on Thursday in its appeal against the recent court order upholding the ban on its telecast by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
During the hearing on Thursday, the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the State also sought time to produce certain documents in a sealed cover and to file a counter affidavit in the case.
The case in question began when MediaOne went off air on January 31 after its license renewal was denied by the Ministry citing national security reasons. Shortly after this, its operator Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking to set aside the order issued by the I&B Ministry. The petition stated that the channel was not involved in any sort of anti-national activity.
During a previous hearing of the petition, the channel’s counsel had said that a show cause notice was issued to MediaOne on January 5 asking why its license should not be revoked in consideration of national security and public order. While the company had responded seeking an opportunity for hearing, the Ministry had ignored this and revoked its permission with immediate effect, he added. The channel’s counsel further mentioned that such a notice can only be served by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and not the I&B Ministry.
It is notable that many of the investors in the company are reportedly members of the Kerala chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami. The channel had previously been banned for 48 hours in 2020 for allegedly violating the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1998 during its reportage of the Delhi riots that year.
On February 4, the High Court had asked the MHA to produce the files that recommended the cancellation of the news channel. After perusing the files from the MHA, the High Court observed on Tuesday that it had found sufficient justification for the denial of security clearance to the channel and hence upheld the revocation of its license.
A day after, Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited moved the High Court challenging its order.
During the hearing of its appeal on Thursday, MediaOne’s counsel Dushyant Dave argued that this was immaterial. He cited several cases such as the Romesh Thapar case, the Bennett Coleman case, the Express Newspapers case, among others where the court held that the freedom of press was an essential element of freedom of expression and Article (19)(a).
The court questioned the ASG regarding the provision or law for the revocation of license and said “Revocation is totally denying them any right. It is an absolute cancellation. Section 9 deals with renewal. Is there any similar provision for revocation?”
However the court remarked, “The guidelines have provisions for renewal, revocation and denial of a license. But revocation is a penalty as per the guidelines”.