National Security And Right To Information In India

PRAVEEN DALAL MANAGING PARTNER OF PERRY4LAW CEO PTLBNational Security and Right to Information are interrelated concepts. We occasionally find them on Crossroads. In fact, the National Security Card is played so often by Governments around the World that the concept of National Security has become the most abused and most favourite method of defeating Civil Liberties Protections in Cyberspace.

Indian Judiciary has not been much involved with Cyberspace issues for long. Of late it has started dealing with issues pertaining to Cyberspace like Websites Blocking. Clearly, Indian Judiciary has not been comfortable with Cyberspace issues so far. Even issues pertaining to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have not been properly appreciated by Indian Judiciary.

I personally believe that there must be a “Constitutional Balance” between National Security and Human Rights and Fundamental Rights Protection Requirements. Giving “Primacy” to one over the other, without engaging in a “Reconciliatory Exercise”, would be “Counter Productive” in the long run.

Further, the Fundamental Rights themselves must be “Reconciled” so that our Constitutional Scheme remains intact. The Indian Constitutional Scheme is based upon “Balance of Rights” and no right is absolute in nature. In case of conflict between two Fundamental Rights, the Fundamental Right that strengthens and substantiate the Public Interest should prevail”.

For instance, if there is a conflict between Right to Privacy and Right to Information/know, any information can be disclosed in certain circumstances to substantiate and strengthen Public Interest.

Thus, not all tapped conversations of Nira Radia and Ratan Tata can be labeled as “Private” or pertaining to “National Security” and barring few “Exceptional Disclosures” all other can be made “Public” by the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court of India must not unnecessarily put a “Blanket Ban” upon disclosure or publication of such conversations as that would amount to “Unreasonable Curtailment” of other Fundamental Rights like Right to Information. The “National Security Card” should not be used by any individual or institution, including the Supreme Court of India, to defeat the Constitutional Protections and Safeguards.

I have already written about this issue to Indian Government in February 2011 and this was sufficient time for it to deliberate and formulate an effective Policy in this regard. If still the Indian Government has failed to formulate such Policy, it only shows that it is not interested in formulating one.

Finally, Intelligence Infrastructure of India needs Rejuvenation as it has become synonymous for Non Accountability and Mess. There is neither any Parliamentary Oversight nor and Transparency and Accountability of the working of Intelligence Agencies of India. E-Surveillance in India is presently done in much derogation of Constitutional Protections.

The matter is pending before Supreme Court of India and if it does not handle the issue properly, the chaos would persist for some more decades.