The Delhi High Court today granted interim stay on an order of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry by which it had withdrawn the permission given to a news and current affairs TV channel to operate due to lack of security clearance. The court’s interim order came on a plea by Alliance Broadcasting Pvt Ltd challenging the I&B ministry’s April 23 decision that since the security clearance accorded to it earlier had been withdrawn by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the permission granted for operating the channel was liable to be cancelled. The ministry had also rejected the company’s application for renewal of the permission for a further period of 10 years. The company has alleged that this order was “illegal and unsustainable in law”.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher sought the responses of the ministries Home Affairs and I&B on the petition and stayed the April 23 order. The court listed the matter for further hearing in June during the summer vacations. During the hearing, central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, appearing for both the ministries, said the allegations against the company were serious and the decision to withdraw security clearance was based on the inputs of the Intelligence Bureau. The company said in its plea that it was granted permission by the I&B Ministry to uplink and downlink a news and current affairs TV channel in English and other regional languages in January 2007. The permission was granted for 10 years to the channel, which was initially known as ‘Real Estate’.

Its name was changed to ‘News 7 (Tamil)’ in 2014. The company claimed it had maintained an unblemished record in operating the channel since the permission was granted, and had been remitting the annual licence fee for operating the channel without any default. It said that in November 29, 2017, the company received a show cause notice from I&B Ministry that in view of the withdrawal of security clearance from the MHA, the permission granted to operate the channel was liable to be revoked. The company claimed when it had moved the high court seeking direction to restrain the I&B Ministry from taking any coercive action, the court had asked the two ministries to pass a speaking order on the notice.

The plea said the company was given a hearing by the joint secretary of I&B Ministry on April 23 where it had made its contentions. However, on May 23, the I&B ministry passed an order rejecting the company’s contentions and repeated that as security clearance has been withdrawn, the permission to operate has to be cancelled, it said. The company through its plea sought a direction to set aside the May 23 order of the I&B Ministry cancelling the permission granted to operate the channel and rejecting the application for renewal for the next 10 years. It also sought a direction to the ministry to proceed with its renewal application and disclose the reasons for withdrawal of security clearance by the MHA.  – Financial Express