Should changes in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 be done involving the citizens?
In reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking inspection of all papers relating to the amendment proposals in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has replied that the information is exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(i) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; of the RTI Act.
The Section 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act exempts the disclosure of Cabinet papers, including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers. The proviso to the section provides that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over.
The Official Secrets Act, 1923 is a legacy from the British colonial era and came into existence to curb espionage. This act prohibits anyone from approaching, inspecting, or trespassing over a prohibited area or holding secret official documents.
The disclosure of any information that is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, or friendly relations with foreign States, can be charged under the Official Secret Act (OSA). A person can be charged under the Act even if the action was unintentional. Only persons in positions of authority are empowered to hold and deal with official documents and secrets, and if any other person is found to possess them, action can be initiated against him and a punishment of three to fourteen years imprisonment.
The applicant, Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, has deplored the effort to amend the Officials Secret Act in an atmosphere of great secrecy where citizens outside government do not require to be consulted. He has demanded that all attempts to amend the OSA must be made public as it is a requirement under Section 4(1)(c) Every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; of the RTI Act.