India: The dangers posed by the outdated Official Secrets Act, 1923


Letter addressed by 50 prominent members of Parliament (MPs) Re: The Iftikar Gilani Case to the Deputy Prime Minister of India Shri L.K. Advani.


March 10, 2003

Shri L.K. Advani
HonŪble Deputy Prime Minister,
Government of India,
New Delhi


Dear Deputy Prime Minister,


May we draw your kind attention to the dangers posed by the outdated and draconian Official Secrets Act, 1923 which were highlighted recently by the arrest and detention of Iftikar Geelani, Chief of Bureau of Kashmir Times in New Delhi. He was imprisoned for 7 months on manifestly false charges. His pleas for bail were turned down. He was ultimately released after it was found that at no time there was a case against him. We urge Government to pay compensation to Shri Geelani for his wrongful confinement. Furthermore, an unprecedented large number of cases under the Official Secrets Act has been registered in the country since 1999 to date. At present there are at least 31 persons in jail pending trial in Delhi itself. This spurt of cases points to the possibility of the Official Secrets Act being misused as happened in the Geelani case. To prevent misuse of the Official Secrets Act the Press Council of India has suggested an amendment to Section 5 of the Act so that žnothing shall be an offence under this section if it predominantly and substantially subserves public interest unless the communication or use of Žofficial secretŪ is made for the benefit of any foreign power or is in any manner prejudicial to the safety of the StateÓ. On the other hand, the Venkatachalaiah Commission on the Working of the Constitution has recommended greater judicial accountability in case of patently wrong judicial orders which grievously affect the freedom of the citizens. We request you to introduce both these amendments to the existing legislation at the earliest so as to uphold the Rule and Law of strengthen the credibility of the Judiciary.


Yours sincerely,


LIST OF SIGNATORIES OF LETTER ADDRESSED
TO DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SHRI L.K. ADVANI
DATED MARCH 10, 2003 AND RE. THE IFTIKAR GILANI CASE:


1.                  Justice Ranganath Misra (Congress)
2.                  Fali S. Nariman (Congress)
3.                  R.K. Anand (Congress)
4.                  KapilSibal (Congress)
5.                  H.R. Bhardwaj (Congress)
6.                  Eduardo Faleiro (Congress)
7.                  Dr. Raja Ramanna (Nominated)
8.                  Pritish Nandy (Shiv Sena)
9.                  Kuldip Nayar (Nominated)
10.              Prof. Saif-ud-din Soz (Congress)
11.              Kartar Singh Duggal (Nominated)
12.              Janeshwar Mishra (Samajvadi)
13.              Rishang Keishing (Congress)
14.              Smt. Sarla Maheshwari (CPM)
15.              Smt. Chandrakala Pandey, CPM
16.              Smt. Kum Kum Rai (RJD)
17.              C.O. Poulose (CPM)
18.              K. Natwar Singh (Congress)
19.              Rama Shankar Kaushi (Samajvadi)
20.              R.S. Gavai (RPI)
21.              Manoj Bhattacharya (RSP)
22.              Nabam Rebia (Independent)
23.              Karnendu Bhattacharjee (Congress)
24.              N.R. Dasari (CPI)
25.              Jibon Roy (CPM)
26.              Prasantha Chatterjee (CPM)
27.              Dr. Biplab Das Gupta (CPM)
28.              Anil Kumar (RJD)
29.              M.J. Varkey Mattathil (Kerala Congress)
30.              Dr. A.R. Kidwai (Congress)
31.              Smt. Bimba Raikar (Congress)
32.              Balkavi Bairagi (Congress)
33.              Vijay J. Darda (Independent)
34.              Prithviraj Chavan (Congress)
35.              A. Vijayraghvan (CPM)
36.              Aimaduddin Ahmed Khan (Durru) (Congress)
37.              Ms. Mabel Rebello (Congress)
38.              R.P. Goenka (Congress)
39.              Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajvadi)
40.              Santosh Bagrodia (Congress)

And several others whose signature is illegible.




SPECIAL MENTION MADE IN THE RAJYA SABHA[The Upper House of India's Parliament] ON MARCH 13, 2003.

The dangers posed by the outdated Official Secrets Act, 1923 were highlighted recently by the unwarranted arrest and detention of Iftikar Geelani, Chief of Bureau of Kashmir Times in New Delhi. He was imprisoned for 7 months. His pleas for bail were rejected. He was ultimately released after it was found that at no time there was a case against him. Government should pay compensation to Shri Geelani for his wrongful confinement. An unprecedented large number of cases under the Official Secrets Act have been registered in the country since 1999. At present there are at least 31 persons in jail under this Act in Delhi itself. To prevent misuse of the OSA the Press Council of India had suggested the following amendment to Section 5 of the Act žnothing shall be an offence under this section if it predominantly and substantially subserves public interest unless the communication or use of Žofficial secretŪ is made for the benefit of any foreign power or is in any manner prejudicial to the safety of the StateÓ. On the other hand, the Venkatachalaiah Commission on the Working of the Constitution has recommended greater judicial accountability in case of patently wrong judicial orders which grievously affect the freedom of the citizens. I urge Government to introduce both these amendments to the existing legislation at the earliest so as to uphold the Rule of Law and strengthen the credibility of the Judiciary.


(EDUARDO FALEIRO, M.P.)
C-701, Swarna Jayanti Sadan,
Dr. Bishamber Das Marg, New Delhi

Return to New collection at South Asia Citizens Web


Return to South Asia Citizens Web