MediaOne ban: Kerala High Court to pronounce judgment on Tuesday
Kerala High Court will on Tuesday pronounce its judgment on the petition filed by Malayalam channel MediaOne challenging the Union information and broadcasting ministry’s order revoking its licence on security grounds.
Besides hearing the plea moved by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, the owner of the MediaOne, the court on Monday heard separate intervening applications by the channel’s editor, Pramod Raman, and its employees and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) that cited possible job losses of 320 employees.
Senior counsel Jaju Babu, who appeared for KUWJ, argued that the ministry’s order affected the freedom of the press. “A media channel that has been operating for a decade has been abruptly pulled out. That is affecting us.”
The counsel pointed out that the policy guidelines for uplinking and downlinking satellite channels did not have statutory force and hence could not be used to suspend or cancel the licence of the channel merely on security grounds.
“They have revoked the original permission granted for 10 years under the cover of this security clearance… That is the basic flaw, which affects the deprivation of the transmission without any statutory force. That is why it is affecting fundamental rights,” he argued.
Explaining how the KUWJ was an affected party, Babu noted that abruptly taking off air a broadcaster that had been lawfully operating for a decade would affect the livelihood of its employees.
Additional solicitor-general of India S. Manu, however, argued that it could not be assumed that security clearance once granted could never be revoked. He vehemently opposed the intervening application and argued that they were not maintainable.
To this, Justice N. Nagaresh pointed out that several jobs could be lost by the government’s action. “By your actions employees will be jobless tomorrow and you are saying a registered trade union is not an affected party,” the court pointed out.
The ASGI argued that the trade union should not intervene in the case as it was not a dispute between the employer and employees. He argued that accepting the arguments in the intervening petitions would “belittle the security concerns of the nation”.
The Union information and broadcasting ministry had revoked the licence of the popular Malayalam news channel on January 31 citing the lack of “security clearance” from the Union home ministry. The channel had subsequently faced a seven-hour blackout until the high court granted an interim stay on the order for two days, which was later extended to Monday.
The channel can now operate until Tuesday when the court is set to pronounce its verdict.
At the last hearing on February 2, the court had directed the Centre to produce all the files related to the refusal of security clearance to the channel. The home ministry has submitted the documents.