Sealed Cover Jurisprudence is appalling 

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News: License of MediaOne a television channel in Kerala was cancelled by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the grounds of national security.  

Subsequently, the State High court also dismissed its appeal plea. However, the reasons for invoking national security were not disclosed. 

How this particular incident infringes upon several Fundamental Rights? 

It compromises right to freedom of speech and expression of the television channel.  

The rights to association, occupation and business are also impacted.  

Moreover, the viewers also have a right to receive ideas and information that gets compromised. 

The most disturbing part of the incident is that state need not even show that its security is threatened. 

What earlier supreme court judgements have said on the issue? 

It is paramount to ensure that the test of reasonable restrictions is satisfied as it is the bedrock of judicial review. 

The Supreme court adopted the proportionality test in the Modern Dental College vs State of Madhya Pradesh (2016) case and reiterated it in the K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017) case. 

When an action is alleged to have curtailed fundamental rights, the court is bound to examine the legality of the action through the lens of proportionality. 

This act of executive to not disclose the reasons of using the national security clause even to the other party concerned(here the broadcaster) is opposed to the principles of natural justice. 

How the current High court judgement stands in contradiction to prev SC judgements? 

First, there was no examination of the national security plea based on the well established proportionality analysis.

Second, as per a three-judge Bench in the Pegasus case (Manohar Lal Sharma vs Union of India, 2021) the state does not get a “free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised”. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Sealed Cover Jurisprudence is appalling” published in The Hindu on 8th Mar 2022.  

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