“Don’t Give Sealed Covers”: CJI Ramana, Justice Chandrachud Criticise Practise By Governments

During two separate hearings on Tuesday, the Apex Court criticised the practice of “sealed cover jurisprudence” by governments. 

The government and its agencies, under this practise, submit documents in sealed envelopes to the judges. The opposition party is not made aware of the contents of these documents. The practise is usually performed on the grounds that the contents are highly sensitive in nature or can affect national security or public order. 

While hearing a criminal appeal filed by a man against the Bihar government, CJI NV Ramana refused to accept documents in a sealed cover.

“Don’t give any sealed covers, keep it with you, I don’t want any sealed cover,” CJI Ramana said, according to a report by LiveLaw. 

A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud, while hearing another case related to the ban Malayalam news channel MediaOne TV, said it will look into the validity of relying on “sealed covers” during hearings.

Justice Chandrachud, expressing his reservation over the practise, said: “I am very averse to what is called the ‘sealed cover jurisprudence.”

On March 2, the Kerala High Court upheld the Centre’s ban on the news channel MediaOne citing national security. Certain confidential files provided by the Centre had convinced them that the channel posed a threat to national security, the High Court judges had said. 

The channel had then moved SC against the ban. The top court had directed the Centre to produce the files based on which it had refused to renew the licence of MediaOne TV.

Reasons have to be disclosed to the channel so that they can defend themselves, the court told centre. “What is the difficulty in disclosing the files?” Justice Chandrachud asked, reported LiveLaw. 

There were, however, some exceptions like in cases involving child sexual abuse where the court does not want parties to see the files, Justice Chandrachud said.

Justice Chandrachud also asked senior lawyers to assist him in looking further into this practice.

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