Sealed cover jurisprudence
(GS-II: Separation of powers)
The Supreme Court, in the Media One ban case, has 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 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.
What is Sealed Cover Jurisprudence?
It is a practice used by the Supreme Court and sometimes lower courts, of asking for or accepting information from government agencies in sealed envelopes that can only be accessed by judges.
While a specific law does not define the doctrine of sealed cover, the Supreme Court derives its power to use it from Rule 7 of order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules and Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.
Rule 7 of order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules:
It is stated under the said rule that if the Chief Justice or court directs certain information to be kept under sealed cover or considers it of confidential nature, no party would be allowed access to the contents of such information.
If the Chief Justice himself orders that the opposite party be allowed to access it.
It also mentions that information can be kept confidential if its publication is not considered to be in the interest of the public.
Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872:
Under this act, official unpublished documents relating to state affairs are protected and a public officer cannot be compelled to disclose such documents.
Other instances where information may be sought in secrecy or confidence are when its publication impedes an ongoing investigation, such as details which are part of a police case diary.
Reasons for Sealed Covers:
When the matter pertained to the Official Secrets Act.
To maintain public confidence in the Government agency.
Delicate international negotiations or those that relate to sensitive aspects of security.
Details about survivors of sexual assaults or child abuse which may affect their future life and bring unncessary shame affecting the Right to Live with Dignity.
Disclosure sometimes affects the ongoing investigation.
Issues with the Sealed Cover Jurisprudence:
Press Freedom Index
(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
The 2022 World Press Freedom Index (20th edition) was recently published by Reporters Without Borders.
It was released on the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) (3rd May).
The report points to an overall two-fold increase in media polarisation creating divisions within countries, and between countries at the international level.
World Press Freedom Index:
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.
Based in Paris, RSF is an independent NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).
The Index ranks countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. However, it is not an indicator on the quality of journalism.
Each country or territory’s score is evaluated using five contextual indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety.
Performance of India:
India has fallen eight places from 142 to 150 in 2022 out of 180 countries.
India’s ranking, as per the report, fell on the back of increased “violence against journalists” and a “politically partisan media”, which has landed press freedom in a state of “crisis” in the world’s largest democracy.
Media in India, among nations reputed to be more democratic, faces pressure from “increasingly authoritarian and/or nationalist governments.
It also faults India for its policy framework, which is protective in theory but resorts to using charges of defamation, sedition, contempt of court and endangering national security against journalists critical of the government, branding them as “anti-national.”
Performance of other countries:
Norway (1st) Denmark (2nd), Sweden (3rd) Estonia (4th) and Finland (5th) grabbed the top positions.
North Korea remained at the bottom of the list of the 180 countries.
Russia was placed at 155th position.
Nepal has climbed up by 30 points in the global ranking at 76th position.
The index placed Pakistan at 157th position, Sri Lanka 146th, Bangladesh 162nd and Myanmar at 176th position.
China was ranked at 175th position.
About the World Press Freedom Day:
The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
The day also marks the 1991 Windhoek Declaration (adopted by UNESCO).
It is aimed towards the ‘development of a free, independent and pluralistic press’.
International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
(GS-III: Disaster Management)
The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has commenced the International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure 2022.
Heads of states from CDRI member countries including India attended the conference.
CDRI is a multi-stakeholder global partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks, the private sector, academic and knowledge institutions.
CDRI is led and managed by national governments, where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster resilience of infrastructure.
The CDRI Secretariat is based in New Delhi, India.
Formation: September 23, 2019.
Members: As of March 2021, 29 members, consisting of 22 national governments and 7 organizations have joined CDRI.
International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure:
ICDRI is the annual international conference of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) in partnership with member countries, organizations and institutions to strengthen the global discourse on disaster and climate resilient infrastructure.
Need for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure:
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) highlights the role of improved disaster resilience of infrastructure as a cornerstone for sustainable development.
The SFDRR includes four specific targets related to loss reduction:
Target (4) on infrastructure is an important prerequisite to achieving the other loss reduction targets set out in the framework.
Lokpal to get permanent office at World Trade Centre in Delhi
(GS-II: Important Statutory Bodies)
The Lokpal has now got its own office at World Trade Centre in south Delhi.
Five years after the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act was passed in 2013, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh (retd) was appointed as India’s first Lokpal along with eight other members in March 2019.
Lokpal Act of 2013:
The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
Composition: The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.
The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.v
The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.
Jurisdiction and powers of Lokpal:
The Lokpal can inquire into allegations of corruption against anyone who is or has been Prime Minister, or a Minister in the Union government, or a Member of Parliament, as well as officials of the Union government under Groups A, B, C and D.
The body also covers complaints against chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre and any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above ₹10 lakh.
The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe.
Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.