The Supreme Court has said that the Centre cannot withhold documents from disclosure under the RTI Act citing national security and relations with a foreign state.However,the applicant must establish that withholding of such information produces greater harm than disclosing it.
The observation was made by a Supreme court judge in which the Court has allowed the plea based on leaked documents on Rafale deal.The petitioner has asked for review of the court’s judgement on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Further,the Supreme Court has countered the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).The government has said that it affected national security and relations with France.But the court has said that the Right to Information (RTI) Act supersedes the OSA.
The apex court has said that the (a)Section 22 of the RTI Act gave it an overriding effect over the Official Secrets Act (b)Under Section 24 of the RTI Act even security and intelligence establishments are not exempted from disclosing information in relation to corruption and human rights violations and (c)Section 8(2) provides that information exempted under sub-section(1) or exempted under the Official Secrets Act,1923 can be disclosed if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest.
Official Secrets Act(OSA) is India’s anti espionage (Spy and Secret agent) act enacted in 1923 during the British Rule.It extends to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.The basic objective of the Right to Information Act is to (a)empower the citizens (b)promote transparency accountability in the working of the Government (c)contain corruption and (d)make our democracy work for the people in real sense.