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Renewal of permission for a TV channel is not a matter of right for a company, govt. tells SC- Mrit News

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Ministry of Information and Broadcasting files affidavit in Supreme Court in MediaOne telecast ban case

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting files affidavit in Supreme Court in MediaOne telecast ban case

The renewal of permission for a TV channel is not a matter of right for a company, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 1,2022.

“The renewal of permission for a TV channel is not a matter of right for a company and such permission is granted only upon fulfilment of certain eligibility conditions stipulated under the uplinking and downlinking guidelines and other relevant statutory framework,” the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in its reply in the MediaOne telecast ban case

The affidavit came in reply to an appeal filed by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, the company which runs the MediaOne channel, challenging the government’s non-renewal of security clearance “on the basis of intelligence inputs which are sensitive and secretive in nature”.

An apex court Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had decided to examine the larger question of the government banning media outlets without fully divulging reasons for the action.

National security

However, the government justified that “in cases like the present one wherein the matter concerning national security is involved, the petitioner-company cannot insist on the strict compliance of principles of natural justice and the respondent [the government] is not bound to disclose the reasons of denial of security clearance to the company”.

The government countered the company’s contention that the security clearance of the Home Ministry was required only at the time of initial permission and not at the time of renewal as “fallacious and contrary to the provisions of the uplinking and downlinking guidelines”.

“Clause 9.4 of the uplinking guidelines and clause 10.2 of downlinking guidelines specifically provide that all conditions required at the time of grant of initial permission are required to be complied with at the time of renewal also,” the Ministry countered.

If not, the Ministry argued, “it would lead to a situation wherein the clearance granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs [MHA] for once would operate perpetually, which would defeat the very purpose and object of grant of such security clearance”.

The government contended that permission was granted for a period of 10 years only and the security clearance by the MHA was also valid for the same period.

“Renewal of permission for a further period of 10 years requires verification and clearance of the MHA again from the point of view of national security,” it noted.

The government said the permission granted in 2015 to the company for uplinking and downlinking of TV channel, namely ‘MediaOne Life’, was cancelled on September 11, 2019 in view of the denial of security clearance by the MHA. Further the denial of permission to the company for appointment of two directors was also communicated to the company vide the Ministry’s letter on August 11, 2017.

“The cancellation of permission to MediaOne Life and denial of permission for appointment of directors in the company have not been challenged by the company and as such the proceedings became final,” the 27-page affidavit said.

The government argued that at the time of applying for renewal, the company had enclosed the forms for security clearance, signifying that at the time it had “no apprehension about the requirement of security clearance for renewal of permission.”

The government said it was willing to produce the necessary files before the Supreme Court again in a sealed cover.

The court had stayed the telecast ban on MediaOne on March 15 while keeping open the question whether the internal government files, based on which the media company’s security clearance was not renewed in an order on January 31, 2022, ought to be shared with the media company.

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