oppn parties Supreme Court Sets Aside Broadcast ban On MediaOne

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Supreme Court Sets Aside Broadcast ban On MediaOne

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2023-04-05 16:36:51

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator.

Criticizing the Union Home ministry for raising concerns about national security in the case of news channel MediaOne "in a cavalier manner", the Supreme Court today set aside the Kerala High Court judgment that had upheld the Home ministry's broadcast ban on the channel. The Supreme Court said that criticism of government's policies and actions cannot be taken to mean anti-national activity. It further said that an independent press is essential for a vibrant democracy. It also took the Centre to task for providing its submission in a sealed cover and said this practice must go. It said that the Centre had failed to provide any material facts or evidence to justify the broadcast ban it imposed on MediaOne.

The court said that "there is nothing to show terrorist links. National security claims cannot be made on the basis of thin air. It is seen that none of the material is against national security or threatens public order." It further said that the government cannot take the stand that the press must always support the government and criticism of the government cannot be a ground to revoke the broadcasting licence of a news channel.

In recent cases, the Supreme Court has expressed strong displeasure at the Centre for providing its submission in some cases in 'sealed covers'. In the instant case, the court said that "sealed cover proceedings cannot be adopted to avoid the harm caused by public immunity proceedings. We are of the opinion that public immunity proceedings are a less restrictive means to safeguard the public interest." It added that "there cannot be a blanket immunity to the government for disclosure of information to the other parties in a proceeding before the court" because "all investigation reports cannot be termed secret as these affect the rights and liberty of the citizens."

Politicians of all hue, without exception, have dictatorial tendencies and cannot tolerate dissent. There were proposed draconian bills or ordinances in Kerala (ruled by the CPI(M)), Bihar (ruled by JD(U) in alliance with different parties at different times) and some other states that sought to kill free speech. At the Centre, the NDA government has always displayed a very thin skin when it comes to dissent of any kind. Draconian Acts and Sections are used to muzzle free speech. Even the media is not spared and journalists are especially targeted. But, as the Supreme Court has said, the government must learn to take the bad with the good and allow all kinds of opinions to be expressed if it seriously believes that India is a democracy.