On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave informed the Supreme Court that the Malayalam news channel MediaOne, whose broadcast licence was not renewed by the Centre in January this year due to security concerns, had never breached the Programmed Code.
“There is no claim that the channel broke the Program Code. The sole offence is that the channel is controlled by members of a minority group “Dave appeared before a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli. He went on to say that the station is “widely appreciated among Malayalees” and that famous people participate in its debates.
The senior lawyer was defending the channel management’s Special Leave Petition, which challenged the Kerala High Court’s rejection to intervene in the Centre’s decision not to renew the broadcast licence under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995. While admitting the petition in March, the Supreme Court issued an interim ruling allowing the channel to be aired.
Dave claimed that the lack of security clearance by the Ministry of Home Affairs could not be used to refuse to renew the licence if the channel met the requirements of the Cable TV Act and the Rules. The basic right to freedom of expression, which includes press freedom, can be limited only on the circumstances specified in Article 19. (2). At this point, the court inquired whether the reasoning was that security clearance could not be required for a news station at any time. Dave explained that his view is that security clearance can be obtained, but only on the basis of Article 19 grounds (2).
“What is the evidence against me? Have I ever done something to jeopardise India’s integrity or sovereignty, or have I ever been found in contempt of court? Every power must be understood and exercised reasonably. The government must act in accordance with Section 19(2) “, Dave contended. He emphasised that the High Court’s ruling was based on evidence given by the Ministry of Home Affairs in a “sealed cover” that had not been disclosed with the petitioners.
Dave said the High Court’s decision to uphold the Centre’s ruling despite the fact that the depth of the situation was not evident to it “disturbing and unsatisfactory.”
He cited the decision in Arun Shourie’s case, in which the Court declined to accept sealed cover documents that were not included in the affidavit. He further cited the P Chidambaram case, in which the Court said that denying bail on the basis of sealed cover documents is unjust. In this regard, he also pointed to various international rulings. The Watergate scandal was mentioned, in which the US Supreme Court rejected the President’s claim of privilege and ordered him to turn up the documents.
“According to Justice H.R. Khanna, basic rights are not fundamental because the Constitution says so. They are essential because they are fundamental human rights “Dave stated.