Probing The Press
The Official Secrets Act can’t be an instrument to censor embarrassing media revelations.
The essential distinction between public interest and the interest of the government of the day seems to have been lost on the Attorney General. K.K. Venugopal’s claim that documents pertaining to the purchase of Rafale jets published by the media, including this newspaper, have been “stolen” amounts to a definitive admission that they are genuine. The documentary evidence published so far indicates that “parallel parleys” held at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office undermined the Indian Negotiating Team’s discussions with the French side; that internal questions had been raised about the absence of bank guarantees to hedge against possible default by the vendor; and that this had an adverse effect on the pricing of the 36 jets to be bought in fly-away condition. Few can doubt that these revelations advance the public interest, and have no impact on national security. The publication of the documents and news reports based on them constitute the legitimate exercise of the freedom of the press. The threat of a criminal investigation under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) is disappointing, if not downright perverse. The government is also on weak legal ground when it claims the court should not rely on “stolen” documents while hearing petitions seeking a review of its judgment declining a probe into the Rafale deal. As the Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, pointed out, the manner in which a document has been procured is immaterial, if it is relevant to an adjudication. As one of the judges asked, can the government seek shelter behind the notion of national security if a corrupt practice had indeed taken place?
It is to the credit of successive governments that the OSA has rarely been used against the press. The law primarily targets officials entrusted with secret documents, codes and other material, but Section 5 criminalises voluntarily receiving and possessing such documents, if given to them in contravention of the Act. In a limited examination of this section, the Law Commission observed in a 1971 report that its wording was quite wide. However, it left it to the government to decide against prosecution, if the information leak did not materially affect the state’s interest. There is undoubtedly a case for distinguishing between an act that helps the enemy or affects national security, and one that advances legitimate public interest. In times when information freedom is seen as salutary for democracy, laws such as the OSA should yield to the moral imperative behind the Right to Information Act. This reasoning is embedded in Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, which says that notwithstanding the provisions of the OSA, “a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm
to the protected interests.” The government should refrain from using its secrecy laws to contend with embarrassing media revelations. It would do well instead to respond responsibly to questions thrown up by the revelations.
Courtesy: The Hindu (National)
- Parley (noun) – A conference between opposing sides in a dispute, especially a discussion of terms for an armistice. (संवाद)
Synonyms– Negotiate, Conference, Conclave, Dialogue, Discourse
Antonyms– Ignore, Overlook, Shrug Off, Silence
Example– They disagreed over whether to parley with the enemy.
- Hedge (Verb)- Hinder or restrict with or as if with a hedge; protect oneself against loss on (a bet or investment) by making balancing or compensating transactions. (रोकना \ बाडा लगाना)
Synonyms- Safeguard, Protect, Shield, Guard
Antonyms- Open, Uncover, Endanger
Example- Diversify your financial portfolio to hedge price risks.
- Legitimate (adjective) – In accordance with recognized or accepted standards or principles. (वैध)
Synonyms- Licit, Authentic, Valid, Legal, Genuine
Antonyms- Illicit, Illegal, Invalid, Counterfeit
Example- His two legitimate sons were painters of only ordinary ability.
- Perverse (adjective)- Resistant to guidance or discipline; tending to do the opposite of what is normal or wanted (उद्दंड \ विकारग्रस्त)
Synonyms- Stubborn, Obstinate, Intractable, Clamant
Antonyms- Agreeable, Tolerant, Apt, Acceptable
Example- John made the decision to act in a perverse way to stand out from rest of his group.
- Procure (verb)- obtain (something), especially with care or effort.( पररश्रम से प्राप्त करना)
Synonyms- Obtain, Acquire, Gain
Antonyms- Abandon, Lose, Forfeit
Example- He procured extra cigarettes even though they were rationed.
- Adjudication (Noun)- The final judgment in a legal proceedings; the act of pronouncing judgment based on the evidence presented. (न्यावयक वनर्णय)
Synonyms- Judgment, Verdict, Resolution, Decree
Antonyms- Defer, Hesitate, Not Judge, Indecision
Example- And the writ of the habeas corpus was the proper process to bring the subject before the Circuit Court for its adjudication.
- Contravention (Noun)- Coming into conflict with (उल्लंघन)
Synonyms- Breach, Infringement, Transgression, Violation, Dereliction
Antonyms- Obedience, Compliance, Legal, Harmony, Agreement
Example- The Company is liable to a fine of twenty pounds a day if it should open the line in contravention of such order.
- Salutary (adjective)- Tending to promote physical well-being; beneficial to health.( लाभदायक)
Synonyms- Salubrious, Wholesome, Remedial, Nourishing
Antonyms- Noxious, Injurious, Insalubrious
Example- The vitamins have had a salutary influence on Kamal by giving him more energy.
- Imperative (Adj)- of vital importance; crucial.( अवनिायण)
Synonyms- Obligatory, Urgent, Vital, Compulsory, Essential
Antonyms- Minor, Needless, Unnecessary
Example- As nuclear weapons proliferate, preventing war becomes imperative.
- Embed (V)- Fix or set securely or deeply (जड़ना)
Synonyms- Implant, Lodge, Engraft
Antonyms- Detach, Dislodge, Amputate
Example- The dentist embedded a tooth in the gum.