Article 19 (1)(a) of Indian Constitution and Right to Information Act, 2005

Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the six freedoms which the Constitution of India guarantees under its Article 19(1). The main conception behind granting this freedom to the citizen of India was to allow them to freely develop their thoughts and ideas and share them without any unreasonable hurdle. In the scheme of Constitution of India this freedom is enshrined in the most important part relating to the ‘Fundamental rights of the citizen’. And notably, the rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution as fundamental rights, are very much corresponding to the Human rights of the individuals which were declared universally through the ‘Universal declaration of Human Rights’. From the very early period i.e. since the rationality of the human beings was got realized the humans are found developing their ideas, thoughts and knowledge and it is also true that every individual is having different ideas and thoughts, as it is provided in one of the Sanskrit slogan for say ‘Mundam Mundam Matam Bhinna’. As such, sharing, expressing ideas, knowledge through speech, writings, audiovisual stuffs, etc. become necessary and for protecting this, a recognized right was grated in favour of Citizen to free speech and express.

Similarly, the Right to Information Act, 2005[1] is also having a close connection with the concept of the liberty of speech and expression. The concerned law on the issue of ‘right to information’ was enacted with the purpose and object to make provisions to set out the practical regime of right to information for citizens and this appears to be a important issue in the subject of Freedom of speech and expression. Simply, a person building ideas and thought in relation to any specific field or subject, requires information on that field or subject. And to have such information which is public in nature and which will not hurt the sentiment or privacy of particular persons or entity, is a right of every citizen in India. Earlier to the enactment of this Act of 2005 there was prevailing the Freedom of Information Act, 2002[2] and by enacting this Act of 2005 that enacted of 2002 was replaced. The aforesaid Freedom of Information Act, 2002 was enacted to provide for the freedom to every of the citizen of India for securing access to information under the control of public authorities, consistent with the public interest for promoting the openness and transparency in administration in relation to matters administration. The afore said Act of 2005 was extended to having applicability and force in connection with all of the States and Union Territories of India, however the areas which were comprising the State of Jammu and Kashmir were exempted from such extension. A law passed on June 15th, 2005 was on 12th day of October, 2005 brought into operation and effect as required by the Act itself.

The movement of free speech and Right to information could be studied simultaneously as both of them are inter- related as discussed herein above. A leading case on this issue was decided by the honorable Supreme Court of India in the year 1975 in the case of State of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Raj Narain[3], where an Indian citizen had asked for the disclosure of the Government official’s information kept as ‘Blue book’ in respect to the rules and instructions of the protection of Prime Minister while travelling. It was sought to be maintained by the Petitioner that the said document would reveal the government’s engagement in corrupt practices in connection with the Election campaign. However, it is notable that the provisions of the section 23[4] of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872[5] prevented anyone from giving evidence in court that was derived from certain unpublished official documents unless there is permission from the authorized Government official. The Court ruled that the Court can order Government to disclose its documents in the Court proceeding, though there will be no official permission obtained as per requirements of the Evidence Act, only if there will be served public interest by such disclosure, clearly outweighs that of secrecy. This judgement was the first land mark judgement of the honourable Supreme Court of India where the right to know for the Citizen was established and it was made clear that the concerned right is co- related with and arising from the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India. As such it is clear that the said right to information is derived from the concept of Freedom of Speech, however, the said right is also not absolute as in this connection also reasonable restrictions are applicable.

In the same case the honourable Apex Court of India has observed that the ‘people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know’, as such it is very much clear that the right to free speech and expression will not survive if its base i.e. Right to Information will not be allowed to the citizen and as a result the entire political structure and role of media and ordinary common man will be collapsed from the society. Therefore, right to information is said to be embedded under Article 19 of Constitution of India. It was also clarified in the said land mark judgement by the honourable Supreme Court that the in the Country like India where huge democracy exists, the people are to be treated as ‘Masters’ and therefore, the said masters should have Right of knowing the means of serving and functioning adopted by the Governments.

Thus, it can be concluded that, in clarifying the co- relation between the two significant fundamental rights being (i) Right to freedom of Speech and Expression and (ii) Right to Information, the Indian Judiciary has served for the purpose and also thereafter, the law- making organ of the State being the Legislature has enacted a law as the Right to Information Act, 2005 in the 56th year of republic of India, to deal with the subject and to regulate the furnishing of information. It can also be seen from the preamble of the said Act of 2005 that the India is the established democratic Republic and in such democracy to deal with corruption, to hold governments and for transparency of information in the Governments’ and their instrumentalities’ functioning and accountability the providing of certain public information was deemed necessary.

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[1] Act no. 22 of 2005 (w. e. f. 12th day of October, 2005)
[2] Act no. 5 of 2003 dated 6th January, 2003.
[3] A.I.R. 1975 S.C. 865
[4] Section 23- Admission in civil cases relevant:-In civil cases no admission is relevant, if it is made either upon an express condition that evidence of it is not to be given, or under circumstances from which the Court can infer that the parties agreed together that evidence of it should both be given. Explanation – Nothing in this section shall be taken to exempt any barrister, pleader attorney or vakil from giving evidence of any matter of which he may be compelled to give evidence under section 126.
[5] Act no. 1 of 1872

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