‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence

‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence of courts involves accepting information from government agencies in sealed envelopes that can be accessed only by the judges.

About the ‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence

  • This is used by both Supreme Court and the lower courts. There is no specific law defining the ‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence. However, the Supreme Court derives the power to use ‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence from Rule 7 of Order XIII of SC Rules and Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  • Under Rule 7 of Order XIII, it is mentioned that if the Chief Justice of India (CJI) or the Supreme court directs certain information to be kept under sealed cover, no party would be allowed access to it, unless allowed by CJI himself. Information can be kept secret if its publication is not in the public interest.
  • Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, official unpublished documents related to affairs of the State are protected and public officials cannot be forced to disclose them. ‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence can also be used when the publication of information impedes an ongoing investigation or if it breaches an individual’s privacy.

Usage of ‘Sealed cover’ jurisprudence

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court had asked the Union Government to submit details related to the Rafale fighter jet deal’s decision-making and pricing in a sealed cover.
  • The Supreme Court asked the coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to submit periodic reports in a sealed cover.
  • Other examples include the 2014 BCCI reforms case, Bhima Koregaon case, coal scam case, the Ramjanmabhoomi case, the case related to the death of judge BH Loya, etc.

Recent usage

Recently, Kerala High Court upheld a ban on the Malayalam news channel MediaOne based on an assessment of documents presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs in a sealed cover.

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