Constitutional Perspective of Right to Information by Rejina Begam
The Right to Information is not directly given under the Constitution of India. However, Supreme Court in catena of decisions held that Right to Information is enshrined in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression Article 19(1) (a) and Right to Life and Liberty under Article 21.
Article 19(1) (a)
The Right to Information is a fundamental right flowing from Article 19(1) (a) . Though right to information has no legal position yet it has been developing through several Supreme Court’s decision given in the context of freedom to speech and expression which is the corresponding side of right to know and one cannot be exercised without the other.
In Secretary General Supreme Court of India v. Shubash Chandra Agarwal (2010), HC of Delhi held that the sources of Right to Information is enshrined in Fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression Article 19(1)(a) given by supreme in many judgements although the Act has been enforced in India.
Article 21 guarantees to every citizen the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Although this article guarantees right to life but citizen cannot exercise this right unless they are informed about the threats of their life and the measure can be taken by them or the concerned authorities. Without information, this right becomes meaningless. Ghopal Gas Tragedy is a living example when many people could have saved their lives if they were aware of the threats to their lives and how they can protect themselves from MIC Gas which has killed thousands of people.
Right to Know includes Open Government
The concept of open government direct flows from right to know which is implicit in the right to freedom of speech and expression. People should have knowledge or information about government function because no democratic country can survive without government’s accountability.
In Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain (1975),the Supreme observed that freedom of speech and expression includes rights of citizens to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public Machineries.
In S. P. Gupta v. Union of India (1982), the Court had observed that the concept of open government is the direct emanation from right to know which is implicit in the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a). Therefore, disclosure of information regarding the functioning of government must be the rule and secrecy an exception where strictest public interest so demands.
Right to Information as an essential of Democracy
The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India(2003), held that true democracy cannot exist unless the citizens have right to participate in the affairs of the country. They cannot participate unless they are well-informed about the issues of the country. Misinformation, disinformation, non-information all makes democracy a farce.
Thus, this right should not be interpreted in a narrow sense. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has proved a milestone in the implementation of right to know which is one of the most important constitutional and human right of People in a democratic set -up.