The Sealed Cover Jurisprudence

  • GS-2: Indian Constitution

What is the significance of this being in the news?

  • Because of the MediaOne decision, the court has become a passive observer to any executive action, which highlights democratic decay.

What really is the situation?

  • After receiving a request from the Home Ministry to deny Media One news channel security clearance, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) told the news station that its broadcast licence had been terminated.
  • The writ petition was filed by the firm that owns and operates the television station.
  • The Kerala High Court issued a stay, enabling the channel to continue operating, but reserved its decision..

What is the outcome of the High Court’s decision in this case?

  • Because it was a national security concern, the court appeared to agree with the government’s position that it was not necessary to follow the standards of natural justice in this case.
  • Accordingly, the court decided to accept the government’s submission of papers under a sealed cover and to concur with the authorities that intelligence inputs were received that justified the denial of security clearance.
  • Also dismissed was MediaOne’s appeal, which was brought before a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court.
  • It restated what the Supreme Court declared in the Digi Cable case: “In a crisis of national security, a party cannot rely on the rigorous application of natural justice principles.”

The consequences of terminating the licence are not immediately clear.

  • The move has a negative impact on the basic rights (Article 19 (1)) granted by the Constitution.
  • The television channel’s right to freedom of expression and expression in its programming.
  • The freedoms of association, occupation, and commerce are protected.
  • In the right of the audience members to acquire ideas and information
  • Reasonable limits under Article 19(2), such as those relating to public order, national security, and so on, can be used to circumvent Article 19(1).
  • The problem with the MediaOne decision is that the state does not even have to demonstrate that its security is jeopardised; instead, it can choose for the’sealed cover’ path instead.
  • Politics movements and academic criticism are both likely to be affected by the present case, as is any form of resistance against a powerful regime.

What is it about the concept of “sealed cover” that is such a horrible trend?

  • Checks and balances – India’s Constitution does not grant the executive the authority to issue arbitrary decrees that violate such rights without due process.
  • Through the process of judicial review, the executive is held responsible for its decisions.
  • In cases such as Minerva Mills vs Union of India (1980) and L. Chandra Kumar vs Union of India (1991), the Supreme Court of India has frequently maintained that judicial review of executive action is a fundamental aspect of the Indian Constitution (1997)
  • Whenever the administration seeks to limit rights, it must first demonstrate that the criteria for reasonable limits has been met.
  • The sealed cover practise has an impact on this position of checks and balances since it is the reversal of the position described above.
  • When the administration says the words “national security,” courts frequently grant them permission to educate the public about the rationale under a sealed cover.
  • The grounds for this are not communicated to the party whose rights are plainly at jeopardy.
  • It produces a situation in which basic rights are endorsed on the one hand, while victim recourse through a court of law is barred on the other, creating an untenable situation for both parties.
  • According to the Kerala ruling, the ADM Jabalpur case (1976), which declared that basic rights might be suspended during the Emergency period without the need for judicial review, has been brought back to life.
  • National security became synonymous with utter impunity for the federal government in the High Court.
  • As a result of this decision, it is possible that a free press in a functioning democracy may come to an end.

What kind of resolution is required?

Proportionality –

  • When a legal action is claimed to have limited basic rights, the court is required to consider the legality of the action through the lens of proportionality before determining whether the action was valid.
  • In Modern Dental College versus State of Madhya Pradesh (2016), the Supreme Court applied the proportionality test, which means that a restriction on a fundamental right would be constitutionally valid provided it is reasonable in comparison to the alternative.
  • It has been assigned to a certain function.
  • The means adopted to impose such a restriction are rationally related to the achievement of the goal for which they were implemented.
  • They are required because there are no other measures that will accomplish the same goal with a reduced degree of restriction.
  • In order for the correct purpose to be achieved, there must be a proper relationship (balancing) between the societal value of avoiding the constitutional right from being limited and the importance of accomplishing the necessary purpose.
  • As recently as K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, this principle was reaffirmed (2017).
  • In the Pegasus case (Manohar Lal Sharma versus Union of India, 2021), a three-judge Bench declared that the state does not receive a free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is invoked, as has been the case in the past.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *