Security concerns override natural justice
Though court decisions based on documents submitted by the government in sealed covers are currently a matter of debate as in the Rafale and the Alok Verma proceedings, the Supreme Court last week adopted the same procedure while dismissing two appeals by cable network operators. In the leading case, Digi Cable Network vs Union of India, the firms were granted permission to operate according to the Cable TV Network Rules. Later, it was cancelled invoking Rule 11C as the Union home ministry did not grant it security clearance. It was challenged in the Bombay High Court, which dismissed the writ petitions. In the appeal, the government presented certain documents in sealed covers. After perusal, the Supreme Court upheld the cancellation, observing that the firms had no right to prior notice. In matters of national security, a party cannot insist on strict observance of natural justice. What's in the national interest is not a question of law, but a matter of executive policy, the judgment emphasised.