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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Not bound to disclose why security clearance refused to Media One TV: Centre to SC

The Central government has told the Supreme Court that refusal of security clearance to Malayalam news channel Media One was based on intelligence inputs and in view of matters concerning national security, it is not bound to disclose the reasons.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in an affidavit, said: “It is submitted that in cases like the present wherein the matter concerning national security is involved, the petitioner company cannot insist upon strict compliance with principles of natural justice and the respondent is not bound to disclose the reasons for denial of security clearance to the petitioner company.”

The government made it clear that the renewal of permission of a TV channel is not a matter of right of a company, but is granted upon fulfilment of certain eligibility conditions as envisaged in the policy guidelines.

“It is submitted that MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has informed that the denial of security clearance is based on intelligence inputs, which are sensitive and secret in nature. Therefore, as a matter of policy and in the interest of the security of state and its establishments, the MHA does not disclose the reasons for denial,” it added in the affidavit.

The affidavit said the MHA, under Section 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, seeks privilege over its secret files and prays to this court that the contents of the files may not be disclosed to the petitioners, as such a disclosure may have far-reaching and unimaginable consequences in so far as national security is concerned.

The government said the reasons for denial were already submitted before the high court and the apex court, and if it were asked to submit such a report again, then it would be done in a sealed cover.

On March 15, the Supreme Court stayed the Centre’s ban on the Malayalam TV news channel.

A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: “At the present stage, we are of the view that a case for the grant of interim relief has been made out on behalf of the petitioners having due regard to the contents of the files which have been perused by the court.”

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath, added: “We accordingly order and direct that pending further orders, the order of the Union government dated January 31, 2022 revoking the security clearance which was granted to the petitioner, Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, shall remain stayed.”

The bench allowed the petitioners to continue operating the news and current affairs TV channel the same basis on which the channel was being operated immediately prior to the revocation of the clearance.

On March 10, the Supreme Court issued notice on a plea by Media One challenging the Kerala High Court’s March 2 order, which upheld the Centre’s decision to not renew its telecast licence on national security grounds.

Media One had moved the top court after the high court upheld the ban imposed on it by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, with a division bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chali noting when certain issues with respect to the security of the state are concerned, the government is at liberty to decline to renew the permission granted, without disclosing the complete reasons for the non-renewal.

It had thus dismissed the appeals filed by the channel’s management and journalists challenging a February 9 single-bench order, which refused to lift the ban.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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