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Kerala High Court – Division Bench upholds Central govt decision to revoke MediaOne news channel license

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Kerala. The Kerala High Court on Wednesday upheld the Central government’s decision to revoke the broadcasting license of Malayalam news channel MediaOne.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly upheld a single-judge verdict of the High Court and turned down the appeal filed by the channel.

Senior Advocates Dushyant Dave and S Sreekumar briefed by advocate Haris Beeran appeared for the appellant-channel. The respondent Union of India was represented by Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi and Assistant Solicitor General S Manu.

On February 8, single-judge Justice N Nagaresh upheld the decision of the I&B Ministry to revoke the Malayalam channel’s licence. The Court opined that the material handed over to the Court in a sealed cover indicated that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sufficient cause to deny security clearance to the channel, thereby justifying the ban.

The appeal against said order alleged that the Central government’s haste to cancel the licence of the channel indicated that there was some pre-scripted agenda motivated by some ill-will against the channel.

On January 31, the channel was taken off air following which they approached the High Court, which decided to defer the operation of the I&B Ministry’s order for two days, and then till February 7.

The channel which is owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited was issued a notice by the ministry on January 5, 2022 in which it was stated that in consideration of national security and public order, the government can revoke licences. It also asked them to show cause as to why their licence should not be revoked as the company had not received security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Two other petitions were moved, one by MediaOne Editor Pramod Raman and two employees and the other by Kerala Union of Working Journalists which sought for similar reliefs including calling for records leading up to the order revoking MediaOne’s licence and setting aside the same.

The Central government told the Court that the decision to revoke the licence was based on credible national security concerns.

However, they refused to state what the concerns raised by MHA were, and contended that a party cannot insist on observing natural justice principles in a situation involving national security.

The Centre also submitted a sealed cover some information regarding the reasons which contributed to the decision to deny security clearance.

This is not the first time a channel has faced such a ban. In 2020, MediaOne along with another Malayalam channel, Asianet, were suspended for 48 hours over their coverage of the Delhi Riots, with official orders saying the channels had covered it in a manner which “highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community”.

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