Supreme Court to look into ‘sealed cover jurisprudence’

Media One ban comes up before court

Updated - May 05, 2022 01:28 am IST

Published - May 04, 2022 04:26 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, in the Media One ban case, reiterated its intention to examine the legality of governments filing incriminating material in sealed covers without sharing the information with the accused/other party.

The court allowed the Central government more time to file its counter giving reasons for banning Kerala-based news channel Media One.

The issue of "sealed cover jurisprudence" came up in the previous hearing on March 15, when the Centre wanted to pass on to the court its internal files regarding the ban in a sealed cover.

Objection to govt move

But the Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had objected to the government's move, asking why the government could not disclose the files to the channel. The court expressed its intention to examine the larger issue of 'sealed cover jurisprudence', especially in the background of bans on media houses like Media One.

It had asked senior lawyers like Rakesh Dwivedi and Additional Solicitor Generals S.V. Raju and K.M. Nataraj to assist it in the endeavour.

Justice Chandrachud had said there were only a "small exception" of cases in which the court, for the benefit of the parties, accepted material in sealed covers. "Like in a case of child sexual abuse," he pointed out.

On Wednesday, senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Haris Beeran, for the media company, urged the court to take up the issue of sealed covers without delay.

"In Assam again, the same thing has happened where a sealed cover has been submitted in the case of Gujarat MLA. This needs to be decided authoritatively," Mr. Dave submitted.

The court agreed to examine the issue while it gave the Centre four weeks to file its counter affidavit in the Media One case.

Stays telecast ban

The court had stayed the telecast ban on Media One on March 15 while keeping open the question whether the internal government files, based on which the media company's security clearance was not renewed in an order on January 31, 2022, ought to be shared with the media company.

The court had questioned the government's decision to effectively shut down the business of the media house, Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited, which ran Media One, in the name of "national security and public order" without fully disclosing the specific reasons for revoking their security clearance.

The Bench had said the company was "surely entitled" to know the "particulars" of the ban.

Mr. Dave had stated that the court should not allow such bans. "Otherwise, no media or publication is safe. Everybody can be shut down anytime," he submitted.

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