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State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain

last modified Aug 21, 2012 01:08 PM

Case number:
A.I.R. 1975 S.C. 865
Country:
India
Date of decision:
24 January 1975
Court / Arbiter:
Supreme Court ( Supreme )

Relevant law :
Constitution, Evidence Act ( Constitution, Other Law )

Decision:

Rules of evidence that prevent disclosure of certain government documents in court proceedings may be overridden if the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in keeping documents secret.


Keywords:
Constitution
Freedom of expression (including RTI as element of or integral to)
Public interest (including public interest override, information of public interest)
Public safety

Case details:

Facts

A citizen sought disclosure from government officials of the "blue book" relating to the rules and instructions for the protection of the Prime Minister while traveling. The petitioner claimed that the documents would reveal how the government had engaged in corrupt practices and violated limits on amount of money that may be used in election campaigns. Section 23 of the Indian Evidence Act prevented anyone from giving evidence in court that was derived from certain unpublished official documents without first obtaining permission from a relevant government official.

Decision

The Court ruled that a court may order government documents to be disclosed in court proceeding, even if official permission has not been obtained as required by the Evidence Act, if the public interest served by disclosure clearly outweighs that of secrecy. This was the first time the Supreme Court established that the citizen’s right to know arises from the fundamental right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. In ruling that the government had to disclose documents regarding security arrangements for the Prime Minister's travels within the country, so long as disclosure did not endanger his or her security or public order, the Court reasoned that people have the right to know everything that is done by public officials in their official capacity. This right is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, but it is not absolute and may be subject to restrictions for reasons of public security.

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.