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Table of Content

  • GS - 2 Indian Polity:
    • ‘Natural Justice’ and ‘Proportionality’: Why Supreme Court ruled in Media One’s favour
  • Fact File
  • Why the indigenous Idu Mishmis are protesting a proposed tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh

‘Natural Justice’ and ‘Proportionality’: Why Supreme Court ruled in Media One’s favour

GS-2: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government.


The Supreme Court overturned the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting's decision to not renew the broadcast license of Malayalam news channel Media One in the the case of “Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited vs Union of India & Ors”.


The parent company, Madhyamam Broadcasting, appealed the decision and won. The court ordered the Ministry to issue the renewal within four weeks and all authorities to cooperate. An interim order will remain until the renewal is granted.


The Timeline of the case

Media One News Channel's License Renewal Denied, Parent Company Appeals in Court

  • The case involved the refusal of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to renew the broadcast license of Malayalam news channel Media One, which led to the channel being taken off the air. The channel's parent company, Madhyamam Broadcasting, appealed the decision in court.

Media One News Channel Denied License Renewal Over Security Concerns

  • The government did not renew the license because the Ministry of Home Affairs had declined to grant security clearance to Media One, citing alleged links between the channel's promoters and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH). The government claimed that this was a matter of national security.

High Court Upholds Ban on Media One News Channel Over National Security Concerns

  • The High Court upheld the ban on the channel on the grounds of national security. The government argued that the decision to revoke the license was based on national security reasons. The court accepted this argument and upheld the ban.


Apex Court Rules in Favour of Media One in License Renewal Case

  • The Supreme Court upheld Media One’s appeal on two procedural grounds, namely, principles of natural justice and proportionality.
  • The Court ruled that the Centre's refusal to renew MediaOne's broadcast licence was a restriction on press freedom and that criticism of government policy is not a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • The court rejected the government's national security argument, stating that such a claim must be supported by material evidence.
  • The Court also disapproved of the sealed cover procedure and proposed a less intrusive public interest immunity claim as an alternative.
  • The channel's promoters claimed they were not given a chance to defend themselves because national security reasons were given only to the High Court in a sealed cover. The Supreme Court stayed the HC order and allowed the channel to resume operations.
  • The Supreme Court set aside both the I&B Ministry and Kerala HC orders, criticizing the sealed cover procedure and the cavalier manner in which the national security claim was raised by the Centre.
  • The court said that while it is impractical and unwise to define national security, claims cannot be made out of thin air, and material must back up such inferences. The state cannot use national security as a tool to deny citizens their rights.
  • The Supreme Court dismissed the alleged links between MediaOne's promoters and JEIH, stating that JEIH is not a banned organization and that there is no evidence that shareholders of the channel are JEIH sympathizers.
  • The Supreme Court said that an independent press is vital for democracy, and that the press has a duty to present citizens with hard facts to enable them to make informed choices.
  • The court proposed a public interest immunity claim as a less restrictive alternative to the sealed cover procedure, which violates principles of both natural justice and open justice.
  • The court can appoint an amicus curiae to balance confidentiality concerns with the need to preserve public confidence in the justice delivery process. The amicus shall have access to the materials sought to be withheld by the state and shall represent the interests of the applicant to the best of their ability, while being bound by oath to not disclose or discuss the material with any other person.


Principles of Natural Justice

  • The court allowed the challenge against the MIB order and the High Court's judgment due to the principles of natural justice, which were constitutionalized in its 1978 ruling in "Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India".
  • The principle of natural justice, also known as procedural fairness, is a fundamental legal principle that governs the way in which administrative and judicial decisions are made.
  • The principle requires that any decision-making process should be fair, impartial, and reasonable, and that all parties involved should have the opportunity to be heard and to present their case.
  • There are two main principles of natural justice:
  • Audi alteram partem (Rule of Fair Hearing): This principle states that no person should be condemned or penalized without being given a fair opportunity to present their case. In other words, everyone has the right to be heard and to defend themselves before any decision is made that could affect them. This principle also means that the decision-maker should be impartial and not have any preconceived ideas or biases about the case.
  • Nemo judex in causa sua (Rule Against Bias): This principle states that no one should be a judge in their own case. This means that the decision-maker should be impartial and not have any personal interest in the case or be biased towards one party over another. For example, a judge who has a personal interest in a case or who is related to one of the parties should recuse themselves from the case to ensure impartiality.
  • The principle of natural justice is based on the idea that justice should not only be done but should also be seen to be done. This means that the decision-making process should be transparent, and all parties involved should be given a fair opportunity to present their case and be heard.
  • The principle is not only applicable in legal settings but also in administrative decision-making processes, such as government agencies, tribunals, and regulatory bodies.


Doctrine of Proportionality

  • The judgment elaborated that to determine the validity of a claim regarding the involvement of national security concerns, it should be evaluated based on two criteria:
  1. The existence of evidence to support that the non-disclosure of information is in the interest of national security, and
  2. Whether a rational and cautious person would arrive at the same conclusion based on the available evidence.
  • The doctrine of proportionality is a legal principle that is used to balance competing interests when a government or other authority is making decisions that may impact individual rights.
  • This principle is often used in constitutional law, human rights law, and administrative law, and is applied to ensure that government actions do not unduly interfere with individual rights.
  • The principle of proportionality requires that the means used by the government to achieve a particular objective must be proportional to the objective that is sought to be achieved. This means that the government must use the least intrusive means possible to achieve its objective and that any interference with individual rights must be justified by the importance of the objective being pursued.
  • The doctrine of proportionality has three components:
  1. Rational Connection: There must be a rational connection between the means used by the government and the objective sought to be achieved. This means that the means used must be logically connected to the objective, and must be reasonably expected to achieve the objective.
  2. Necessity: The means used by the government must be necessary to achieve the objective, and there must be no less intrusive means available that could achieve the same objective. This means that the government must use the least intrusive means possible to achieve its objective.
  3. Proportionality Stricto Sensu (Law of Balancing): The benefits of the government action must outweigh the harms caused by the interference with individual rights. This means that the government must demonstrate that the benefits of its action are proportional to the harm caused by the interference with individual rights.
  • The doctrine of proportionality is often used in cases where a government action is challenged on the grounds that it violates an individual's rights. 
  • For example, the principle might be applied in a case where a government is seeking to restrict freedom of expression, or to impose restrictions on a particular group of people.
  • In such cases, the principle requires that the government action be examined to determine whether it is proportional to the objective being sought, and whether it is the least intrusive means available to achieve that objective.
  • If the government action is found to be disproportionate, the court or other authority may strike down the action as unconstitutional or invalid.

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Fact File

Why the indigenous Idu Mishmis are protesting a proposed tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh

  • The Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh is set to be declared a tiger reserve, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). However, the announcement has caused concern among the Idu Mishmi people in the region, who fear that the reserve will restrict their access to the forest.

Idu Mishmi Tribe

  • The Idu Mishmi is a sub-tribe of the larger Mishmi group in Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring Tibet.
  • They are known for their weaving and craftsmanship skills and primarily live in the Mishmi Hills bordering Tibet.
  • Their ancestral homelands are spread over the districts of Dibang Valley and Lower Dibang Valley, as well as parts of Upper Siang and Lohit.
  • The tribe is estimated to comprise around 12,000 people (as per census 2011), and their language is considered endangered by UNESCO.
  • The Idu Mishmis are traditionally animists and follow a strict belief system of myths and taboos called ‘iyu-ena’.
  • Hunting has traditionally been a way of life, but the Idu Mishmis are restricted from hunting many animals, including a complete prohibition on killing tigers.

Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary

  • The Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary is located nearby Anini district, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It was established as a biodiversity hotspot in 1998.
  • It has been named after the Dibang River, a tributary of Brahmaputra River.
  • Its altitude ranges between 1800m and 5000m.
  • The vegetation in the area can be classified into two main categories, namely temperate broad-leaved forest and temperate conifer forest, which include Rhododendrons, bamboo, Gregaria, Tsuga, and other species.
  • It is a habitat for various rare animals such as Mishmi takin, musk deer, goral, clouded leopards, snow leopards, and tigers.


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