Delhi High Court stays govt order revoking permission to 3 Tamil TV channels

Delhi High Court stays govt order revoking permission to 3 Tamil TV channels
Highlights

The Delhi High Court has stayed a government order revoking the permission to uplink and downlink granted to three Tamil Nadu news channels, after the order was challenged by their parent firm in which former AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala is a majority shareholder.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has stayed a government order revoking the permission to uplink and downlink granted to three Tamil Nadu news channels, after the order was challenged by their parent firm in which former AIADMK general secretary V K Sasikala is a majority shareholder.

The issue cropped up when the Centre told the court that the Ministry of Home Affairs has denied security clearance to the company, which runs several channels, including Jaya TV HD, Jaya Plus, Jaya Max and J Movie.

While clearance was not granted to the three channels, the permission for J Movie was not renewed after expiry. The firm, Mavis Satcom Ltd, in which Sasikala holds 80 per cent shares, has challenged the government's decision of May 15 by which permission granted to the firm for uplinking and downlinking of three news and current affairs TV channels was revoked.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher stayed the government's order till September 7, the next date of hearing and sought the Centre's response on the company's plea. The court said the company was in the business of disseminating news and shutting down its operation would impact its business.
"Having seen the record, I am of the view that the matter needs examination.

The petitioner (firm) has set up a prima facie case. The balance of convenience is also in favour of the company. Ordinarily national security would have trumped other concerns; but as indicated above, that does not seem to be the case, at least not at this juncture," the judge said in the order passed in May which has been made available on court website now.

The government's order had also said that the permission granted to one TV Channel, J MOVIE, and one teleport at Chennai was not renewed for further period after expiry of the initial permission period. "Therefore, the names of these TV channels and teleport are being removed from the permitted list of this Ministry with immediate effect.

The company should forthwith stop the operation of one teleport at Chennai and above mentioned 04 TV Channels, namely, JAYA TV HD, JAYAPLUS, JAYAMAX and JMOVIE....," the May 15 order had said. The court noted that documents in the government files, brought by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya, showed that security clearance was given to the key persons of the company in 2015 and again in 2017.

On April 15, 2017, after the conviction of Sasikala, the Intelligence Bureau had suggested to the MHA to take a call in the matter. She was convicted in the disproportionate case by the apex court on February 14, 2017 and a note was prepared after discussion on the matter in August 2017. "It appears that this was the trigger for revisiting the grant of security clearance to the key person in the company," the high court noted.

One of the security rating parameters applied with respect to Sasikala was that "... Prosecution under Prevention of Corruption Act for offences impacting adversely on economic security of the country..." The court said taking note of this guiding parameter, the concerned authority proceeded to recommend denial of security clearance to the company.

"As is evident upon a perusal of the note, this conclusion has been reached upon Sasikala being convicted in a disproportionate assets case. "I have not been able to discern from the note as to how the conviction in a disproportionate assets case would impact adversely the economic security of the country. There is no discussion on this aspect of the matter in the note," the judge said.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the firm, said that no such aspect was communicated to them. He also said if the factum of Sasikala's shareholding in the company was flagged, her equity could have been diluted by transferring it in favour of any person who was untainted and otherwise acceptable to the authorities from the point of view of national security.

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