National Security Vs Judicial Review – UPSC GS2

Context: Whether the state can use ‘national security’ as a ground to limit judicial scrutiny.
Related Cases:
  • MediaOne TV channel case:
    • The transmission of a Malayalam-language news channel, Mediaone TV, was barred by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry citing “security reasons”. The order to block the channel was issued because it had not been granted security clearance by the Home Ministry.
    • A single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court had temporarily deferred the order of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry and had directed the Union home ministry to produce the documents including files in connection with the ban order.
    • The Assistant Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the Central government informed the court that the law does not permit disclosure of the national security reasons and it was based on an intelligence report that the Union Home Ministry denied security clearance to the channel. The high court has, however rejected the central government’s plea to the interim order.
    • This case again brings to question whether the state can use ‘national security’ as a ground to limit judicial scrutiny.
  • Pegasus case:
    • The three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India, in its Pegasus case order had noted that though the settled position of law was that in matters of national security, the scope of judicial review remains limited, this does not however mean that the Centre can have a ‘free pass’ from the courts on matters pertaining to national security.
    • The Court noted that while the judiciary should be circumspect in encroaching upon the domain of national security, it does not imply a total prohibition against judicial review in cases relating to national security.
  • Anuradha Bhasin case:
    • The Supreme Court in the Anuradha Bhasin case, which concerned Internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir also dealt with the question of whether the state can use ‘national security’ as a ground to limit judicial scrutiny.
    • In the Anuradha Bhasin case, the Supreme Court bench noted the “chilling effect” the state action of internet restriction had on free speech, especially in the media. The court noted that the internet restrictions meant to curtail the spread of misinformation and propaganda by the extremists also had a restrictive effect on other individuals.
    • The Court had held that any order of the state which restricts the fundamental rights of speech or expression should be backed by reasons. The courts should be convinced that the state acted in a responsible manner.
Other cases:
The Supreme Court in judgments like the Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Government of India v. Cricket Association of Bengal and Shreya Singhal v. Union of India has noted that freedom of speech and expression includes the right to disseminate information as well and the wider range of circulation of information or its greater impact cannot imply the restriction of information.
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