The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the Centre’s telecast ban on Malayalam news channel MediaOne, Live Law reported. The court told the government to renew the news channel’s broadcast permission within four weeks.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli said that the government was using national security as a tool to deny citizens their rights provided under the law.

MediaOne TV went off the air on January 31 after the Centre suspended its telecast citing “security reasons”.

The Kerala High Court, while upholding the Centre’s decision in March last year, said that it examined the confidential files about the matter, and was convinced that there was a threat to national security.

The channel had then approached the Supreme Court, which directed the Centre to produce the filesbased on which it had refused to renew the licence of the news channel. After examining the files, the Supreme Court passed an interim order allowing the channel to continue operations.

The bench on Wednesday made the interim order absolute. It said that the High Court was not justified in deciding the case based on documents submitted by the Union home ministry in a sealed cover, Bar and Bench reported.

The Supreme Court said that considerations of national security did not preclude the State from acting fairly. “If the state discards its duty to act fairly, then it must be justified before the Court and the facts of the case,” it said. “Firstly, the state must satisfy the court that national security concerns are involved.”

The bench said that the Centre did not explain why disclosing the reasons for its decision to MediaOne would be detrimental to national security. It asserted that merely mentioning the phrase “national security” would not exclude a decision from judicial review.

“The state is using national security as a tool to deny citizens remedies that are provided under the law,” it said. “This is not compatible with the rule of law.”

The Centre had referred to the channel’s reports on the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens to claim that it had an anti-establishment stance. The court, however, said that these could not be grounds to deny the renewal of its broadcast licence.

The court said that independent media is crucial to the functioning of a democratic republic. “The press has a duty to speak the truth and present citizens with hard facts, enabling them to make choices that prepare democracy in the right direction,” it asserted. “A homogenized view on issues that range from socioeconomic polity to political ideologies would pose grave dangers to democracy.”

The court also said that the allegation that MediaOne was linked to the Islamic organisation Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was fallacious. It also noted that the organisation is not a banned one.

There was no material to show that the channel’s office-bearers were shareholders of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the court said.