Every Indian citizen has the elementary right of freedom of speech and expression deriving from Article 19 of the Constitution, and to receive information from the Government to actuate this right. One of the greatest judges of the Supreme Court Justice Mathew as far back as 24.01.1975 declared in the Raj Narain judgment that “In a Government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security. To cover with veil of secrecy, the common routine business, is not in the interest of the public. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired. It is generally desired for the purpose of parties and politics or personal self-interest or bureaucratic routine. The responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption.”
This judgment is good law and is the pillar of Indian democracy. No government or its minister or bureaucrat can maintain secrecy of official information when demanded by a citizen except for a very genuine and compelling reason. In the famous case of Robinson v/s State of South Australia, Lord Blanesburgh declared in the Privy Council that the right of secrecy is a very narrow one and must be exercised most sparingly. Its only one justification can be that disclosure will cause serious injury to public interest - information cannot be denied to a citizen merely because it is marked ‘confidential’ or ‘official’ in some document.
On 26.04.2014, I wrote a piece for publication in the Sunday Guardian in which I posed twelve questions about Black Money, demanding factual answers from the Finance Minister. Clearly, understanding of constitutional law and its practice appear to have reached an all time low. Truthful answers are not being provided to me, without even the fig leaf of even the absurdist and most undemocratic reason - that answers to my questions would cause grave injury to public interest. But even more shocking was that in addition to Government’s non disclosure to my questions, the Sunday Guardian adopted an easy method to block the publication of my article containing the questions - by corrupting an underling. Well, this crooked trick was also rather foolish, and could not render me powerless, thanks to modern technology. Perhaps they did not realize that I am not altogether tech non-savvy. The whole article and questions were put on Twitter and Facebook and received much higher readership than from the Sunday Guardian. I was horrified at the percolation of the gag culture in the media, which was there for all to see, and I could only express my consternation by resigning as Chairman of the newspaper.
Since the Finance Ministry has not answered my questions, the following conclusions inevitably arise:-
Now here are some more questions and I hope the government will not outlaw all sections of the social media and substitute light with darkness.
The people of India, who are the real owners of our national wealth stashed away abroad, are entitled to know the answers to all these questions. They are also entitled to know why the new Government with a new Finance Minister has not moved even an inch to fulfill their promise of repatriating black money back to India, except in taking steps that will make the task further impossible.