SC sets aside Kerala HC order on Media One licence, says independent press necessary
5 April, 2023 | Pragati Singh
The Supreme Court emphasized the need for an independent press for the proper functioning of society.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a Kerala High Court order upholding the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s decision to revoke the licence of news channel Media One, stating that an independent press is necessary for a robust democracy and that the channel’s critical views against government policies cannot be labelled as anti-establishment.
In its order, the Supreme Court also stated that the ‘sealed cover’ approach violates the norms of natural justice and open justice. A panel led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud granted Media One’s petition challenging the Kerala High Court judgement upholding the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s decision to withdraw a news channel’s license.
The highest court further ordered that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting offer a renewal licence to the station within four weeks, and that the interim injunction be enforced until the renewal rights are granted.
The Supreme Court also emphasized the need for an independent press for the proper functioning of society, stating that critical media views cannot be labeled as anti-establishment because such a label implies that the press must always favor the government.
The court also rejected the submission regarding the purported connection of shareholders to Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, stating that it is not a reasonable reason to limit the channel’s privileges. The court also stated that there was no evidence of such a relationship.
The Supreme Court also considered the sealed cover technique, stating that such a tactic cannot be used to avoid injury caused by public immunity procedures. The Supreme Court ruled that if the goal may be attained by public immunity proceedings, sealed cover proceedings should not be used. Previously, the Supreme Court halted the central government’s decision to prohibit the Malayalam news station, allowing it to keep broadcasting its material.
On February 8, 2022, the Kerala High Court affirmed the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remove Media One from the list of approved news networks for security reasons.
The High Court dismissed the channel’s applications challenging the government directive. When dismissing the writ suit challenging the order of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Kerala High Court made it clear that the court’s role in cases of national security is very restricted.