Release Emergency documents, CIC tells Rashtrapati Bhavan

Last Updated : 15 June 2011, 20:04 IST
Last Updated : 15 June 2011, 20:04 IST

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The CIC on Wednesday directed the President’s secretariat to make public all information related to the proclamation of Emergency by the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed on June 25, 1975, when Indira Gandhi was at the helm of power at the Centre.

Right to know

Pointing out that the citizens have a right to know about watershed events in the history of the nation, the commission asked the President’s secretariat to disclose all documents and correspondence received by the then President Ahmed from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi before he signed the order proclaiming the state of Emergency.

The CIC’s order will, of co­ur­se, make the Congress sq­uirm for, historically, the party has never been comfortable whenever the issue has been raised publicly.

“The public interest in disclosing the materials/documents on the basis of which Emergency was declared is immense and the citizens of India have a right to know the same. India needs to learn its lessons well, and without this information, citizens will not be able to derive the correct inferences of a watershed event in its journey of democracy,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

The transparency panel rejected a plea made by the President’s secretariat Public Information Officer (PIO) contending that Article 74(2) of the Constitution put a bar on any court to inquire into any advice given by the Council of Ministers to the President.

Taking refuge under the explanation given by the Supr­eme Court’s nine-judge Bench in the 1994 S R Bommai case, the Central Information Commission said Article 74(2) of the Constitution merely barred an enquiry into the question whether any, and if so, what advice was tendered by the Council of Ministers to the President and the materials could not partake character of the advice.

“Consequently, a court can call upon such material to be disclosed before it, and though the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of the inference drawn from such material is open to judicial review,” the commission said.
Notably, Article 74(2) was introduced in the Constitution by then Prime Minister Gandhi through the 42nd Amendment in 1976 during the Emergency days which lasted for about 21 months till March 21, 1977.

The CIC allowed an appeal filed by noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal against the decision of the President’s secretariat and directed disclosure of all information by July 10.

“The period of Emergency is considered to be the biggest challenge to India’s commitment to democracy. This period was symbolized by curtailment of fundamental rights of citizens, restrictions on freedom of press, illegal detention and abuse of citizens and enactment of draconian laws. Most institutions of governance when asked to bend prostrated themselves and crawled. This showed that the institutions of democracy had not become robust enough to withstand an assault. Given the same, it is (an) imperative for citizens to know the reasons why and how democracy in India was nearly lost,” the commission said in a six-page order.

Noting that the Right to Information is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution, the CIC, however, excluded the exact advice received from Indira Gandhi by President Ahmed for proclamation of Emergency.

Published 15 June 2011, 20:04 IST

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