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SC lifts telecast ban on MediaOne

The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the Centre’s telecast ban on the Malayalam news channel MediaOne. The court also gave the government four weeks to renew the news channel’s broadcast permit.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli stated that the government was using national security as a tool to deny citizens their legal rights.

The case
On January 31, MediaOne TV went off the air after the Centre suspended its telecast for “security reasons.”

While upholding the Centre’s decision in March last year, the high court stated that it had examined the confidential files on the matter and was convinced there was a threat to national security.
The channel then petitioned the Supreme Court, which ordered the Centre to produce the files on which it had refused to renew the news channel’s licence. The SC issued an interim order allowing the channel to continue operations after reviewing the files.

The bench made the interim order absolute on Wednesday, stating that the high court was not justified in ruling on the case based on documents submitted by the Union home ministry in a sealed cover.
The SC also said that considerations of national security did not preclude the state from acting fairly.

“If the state discards its duty to act fairly, then it must be justified before the court and the facts of the case. The state must satisfy the court that national security concerns are involved,” it said.
The bench also stated that the Centre failed to explain why disclosing the reasons for its decision to MediaOne would be detrimental to national security.

It also claimed that simply mentioning the phrase “national security” would not preclude judicial review of a decision.
“The state is using national security as a tool to deny citizens remedies that are provided under the law. This is not compatible with the rule of law,” it said.

Court’s judgement
The Centre had claimed that it had an anti-establishment stance based on the channel’s reports on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. However, the court ruled that these could not be grounds for refusing to renew its broadcast licence.

The court said that independent media is crucial to the functioning of a democratic republic.
“The press has a duty to speak the truth and present citizens with hard facts, enabling them to make choices that prepare democracy in the right direction,” it said. The courty added, “A homogenised view on issues that range from socioeconomic policy to political ideologies would pose grave dangers to democracy.”

The court also ruled that the claim that MediaOne was affiliated with the Islamic organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was false. It also noted that the organisation is not banned.
There was no material to show that the channel’s office-bearers were shareholders of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the court said. Business Standard

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