Question: There is a view that the Official Secrets Act is an obstacle to the implementation of Right to Information Act. Do you agree with the view? Discuss.
Answer: Official Secrets Act was created to immunise government documents from getting into public domain especially the sensitive ones like defence. Even though it appears as if this act is impediment in implementing RTI, there is an underlying reason for its existence.
Official Secrets Act- Impediment in RTI
- Protects corrupt officials
The bureaucrats, who are responsible for giving information under RTI avoid the files from reaching public domain by citing Official Secrets Act. This keeps their corrupt activities hidden.
- Prevents accountability
In democracy there is a need to provide details about utilisation of public funds and RTI is helpful in this regard. But it is prevented by using excuses.
- Used as measure of threat
The government can use Official Secrets Act to threaten activists who have collected a vital information under RTI. This can discourage RTI activists from carrying out their duties.
Official Secrets Act- A necessity
- Protect sensitive information
Certain information needs to be kept away from public domain especially those that are necessary for protecting the nation. In this regard Official Secrets Act comes in handy.
Ex: Expenditure for spying agency, deployment of nuclear weapons etc.
- Discourage unethical practices
Unethical practices like stealing sensitive information and selling it in open market can take place in the name of Right to Information. The Official Secrets Acts can reduce such actions.
Ex: Stolen files of Rafale aircraft.
It is necessary to create a system that acts as checks and balances against malpractices taking place in the name of RTI and Official Secrets Act.
Thus, it can be said that both the acts are important in their own sphere and cannot be accused as obstacle in implementing another one.