In the Media One ban case, the Supreme Court (SC) of India recently reiterated its intention to investigate the validity of governments filing incriminating material in sealed covers without sharing the information with the accused or other party.

The issue of “sealed cover jurisprudence” came up in the previous hearing, when the Centre wanted to hand over its internal files regarding the ban in a sealed cover to the court.


What is ‘sealed cover jurisprudence’?

  • It is a practice used by the SC and sometimes lower courts, of asking for or accepting information from government agencies in sealed envelopes that can only be accessed by judges.
  • While no explicit legislation defines the doctrine of sealed cover, the SC draws its authority to use it from the –
      • Supreme Court Rules – According to the said rule, if the Chief Justice or court directs that certain information be kept under sealed cover, no party will be permitted to access the contents of such information, unless the Chief Justice himself orders that the opposite party be permitted to access it. It also indicates that information can be kept confidential if its disclosure is not deemed to be in the public interest.
      • Section 123 of Indian Evidence Act of 1872 – Official unpublished documents relevant to state matters are safeguarded and no public officer can be forced to divulge such materials. Other instances when material may be sought in secret or confidence is when its disclosure impedes an ongoing investigation, such as details from the police case diary or when it violates an individual’s privacy.



  • Against the principles of transparency and accountability.
  • Against the idea of an open court, where decisions can be subjected to public scrutiny.
  • Have the potential to enlarge the scope for arbitrariness in court decisions, as judges are not supposed to lay down reasoning for their decisions.
  • Denying accused parties access to such documents, obstruct their path to a fair trial and adjudication. 
  • The SC in P Gopalakrishnan V. The State of Kerala (2019) had said that disclosure of documents to the accused is mandated under the Indian constitution, even if it may lead to a breakthrough in the investigation.