Regulators

SC upholds licence cancellation of Digi Cable Network, SCOD 18 Networking

The apex court judge bench observed that security clearance is mandatory.

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MUMBAI: Cancellation of licences granted to two MSOs Digi Cable Network and SCOD 18 Networking has been upheld by the Supreme Court on security ground. Before moving to apex court the petitioners had approached the Bombay High Court where their pleas challenging the cancellation order by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) were dismissed.

Earlier, the licences issued to these cable TV service providers were cancelled by the MIB on the ground that the Ministry of Home Affairs denied issuance of "security clearance" to them.  The apex court bench comprising Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Indu Malhotra security agreed that security clearance is a mandatory requirement as per Cable Television Network (Amendment) Rules.

The Union of India filed the copy of the reasons in a sealed cover which was made basis to deny security clearance to the appellant. Referring to the document, the bench observed that the order of cancellation was passed in conformity with the requirements of Rule 11C.

“It is clear from mere reading of the Rule 11C (1) that grant of permission is subject to issue of security clearance from the central government to the applicant... Since the grant of permission was subject to obtaining of the security clearance from the concerned ministry, the competent authority was justified in cancelling the conditional permission for want of security clearance," the court said.

The appellant also argued that they were not afforded any opportunity of hearing before cancelling the permission. They added that the order was passed without following the principle of natural justice and fair play.

“In a situation of national security, a party cannot insist for the strict observance of the principles of natural justice. In such cases, it is the duty of the court to read into and provide for statutory exclusion, if not expressly provided in the rules governing the field. Depending on the facts of the particular case, it will, however, be open to the court to satisfy itself whether there were justifiable facts, and in that regard, the court is entitled to call for the files and see whether it is a case where the interest of national security is involved. Once the State is of the stand that the issue involves national security, the court shall not disclose the reasons to the affected party,” the judgement read.

The bench also observed that the principles of natural justice were not violated in this case. The appeal has been dismissed finally as it was found to be devoid of any merit. 

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