Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. -- James Madison
The NDA Government enacted The Freedom of Information A ct in 2002. It was adopted in January 2003 but never went into force. The recent Right to Information Act was approved by the Parliament and signed by the President in June 2005 and went into effect in October 2005. It replaces the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
The main objective of this Act is to provide for freedom to every citizen to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, consistent with public interest, in order to promote openness, transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Under the Act, all Indian citizens have a right to ask for information from central and state public authorities. The public authority must respond in thirty days. An independent Information Commission has been created for the nation and all the States are following suit.
During British Raj The Official Secrets Act was passed in 1923 mainly as a defence mechanism against t he rising tide of nationalism initiated by Mahatma Gandhi from 1917. No citizen had any access to official information and every citizen was distrusted by the British Government. This tradition was not only maintained but enriched by the Congress Party after independence.
Though we got our independence in 1947, the Congress Party and the Congress Government were never interested in educating the public or in making it possible for the common people to have access to information relating to the functions, policies and programmes of Government Departments. Jawaharlal Nehru who wrote eloquently against suppression of civil liberties in India during British Rule in his Autobiography in the middle 1930s, conveniently ignored the fundamental fact that his hero Stalin was during the same period killing thousands of innocent people in Russia every day under the subterfuge of protecting the Socialist Soviet State against the so-called Revisionists and Reactionaries. Stalins Purges did not emotionally affect Nehru. No wonder therefore that he had contempt for civil liberties and when he became Prime Minister of independent India on August 15, 1947, he was not interested at all in introducing any legislation for giving free information to the public on public authorities and Government as a whole.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse on 30th January 1948. The Congress Government and the Congress party let loose a reign of terror against the R.S.S. and brought up the charge that R.S.S. was responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. The R.S.S. was banned illegally. Later the Court of Law held that R.S.S. was in no way responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the illegal and immoral ban on R.S.S. was removed in 1950.
The day on which Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi, thousands of innocent school and college students in different cities and small towns i n India were taken into custody by the police. This was a dark chapter in our nations history. This record was put to shame by the misdeeds of Indira Gandhi Government, ably masterminded by her son Sanjay Gandhi who functioned as the de facto Prime Minister during the emergency. Secrecy and suppression became the watch words of Indira Gandhi Government.