Bombay High Court’s Justice Gautam Patel has sent a powerful message to the judiciary at large by saying there was no question of ‘anything being done in sealed cover.’ This was seemingly in reference to several instances of India’s Supreme Court seeking and accepting information in sensitive cases from the Centre’s Narendra Modi government in sealed covers.
According to the Bar and Bench website, Justice Patel made scathing observations while hearing a host of petitions related to financial irregularities committed by an agent on the National Stock Exchange. Admonishing a party for submitting materials in a sealed cover, Justice Patel said, “In any case, I am making it abundantly clear that at least in my Court there is no question—and there will never be a question—of anything being done ‘in sealed cover.'”
He added, “Anything that I can see, all parties before me are entitled to see. That is all there is to it. This is the only method that I know of to ensure an open and transparent decision-making process. Those details will, therefore, need to be set on Affidavit. I am also making it clear that it is not possible for any party to unilaterally decide to put material into a sealed cover.”
Some of India’s Supreme Court judges’ decision to accept materials in sealed covers in sensitive cases had evoked severe criticism from legal experts, who felt that this undermined the confidence of the ordinary public in the Indian judiciary in the absence of transparency.
In the infamous CBI vs CBI case, the Supreme Court had accepted the then CBI Director Alok Verma’s response in a sealed cover.
The top court had also come under serious scrutiny for delivering a verdict without verifying the facts presented by the central government in a sealed cover in the Rafale case.
Other experts had questioned the decision to have the Centre’s submission related to the pricing details of Rafale jets in a sealed cover since they could not be contested by the petitioners.