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Asha Kanta Sharma

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Right to Information‖ means the right to information which can
be obtained from the public authorities or which is held by or under
the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
(iii) taking certified samples of material;
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes,
video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts
where such information is stored in a computer or in any other

According to Madison, "a popular government without popular
information, or the means of obtaining it, is but a prologue to a farce
or tragedy or perhaps both." Right to Information empowers every
citizen to seek any information from the Government and the
authorities acting under the authority of the Government. This right is
regarded as oxygen of democracy as because exercise of this right
ensures transparency and prevention of corruptions in the
functioning of the Public Authorities and thereby helps to survive and
strengthen the democracy.

According to Thomas Jefferson, "it is their sweat which is to
earn all the expenses of the war and their blood which is to flow in
expiation of the cause of it." Freedom of information legislation must
respect the individual's right, to privacy, the right to be let alone
which, in the classic words of the great American Judge, Louis
Brandeis, is "the most comprehensive of rights and the rights most
valued by civilized men."

Freedom of information, as Norman Marsh has aptly pointed
out, "is not meant to provide open government in the sense of the
whole administrative, business of government being carried on in the
market place. There is what is called the 'privacy of government
decision-taking. Whilst there can be no doubt about the public's
entitlement to know what is decided on its behalf, the right to know
cannot always be extended to the internal deliberations of

The fact that the right to information is included in the
constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression has
been recognized by Supreme Court decisions challenging
governmental control over newsprint and bans on the distribution of
newspapers. In a landmark case the petitioners, publishers of one of
the leading national dailies, challenged restrictions in the Newsprint
Control Order on the acquisition, sale and use of newsprint. The
Supreme Court struck down the restrictions on the basis that they
interfered with the petitioners' right to publish and circulate their
paper freely, which was included in their right to freedom of speech
and expression. In a subsequent case, the Supreme Court held that
media controlled by public bodies were required to allow both sides of
an issue to be aired. The right to know has been reaffirmed in the
context of environmental issues that have an impact upon people's
very survival. Several High Court decisions have upheld the right of
citizens' groups to access information where an environmental issue
was concerned. For example, in different cases the right to inspect
copies of applications for building permissions and the accompanying
plans, and the right to have full information about a municipality‘s
sanitation programme, has been affirmed.

The overall impact of these decisions has been to establish
clearly that the right to freedom of information or the public‘s right to
know, is embedded in the provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights
in the Constitution.



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