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Official Secret Act is Still a Challenge for the Media

Official Secret Act is Still a Challenge for the Media

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 March 2018 12:00 AM GMT

Shekhar Engti

The Official Secret Act, 1923 is one of the important laws and ethic of the media. As it is another law, the media as a whole must be aware of it and it should always keep in mind this law while reporting with documents of official records. The intent of the Act is to prevent spying and in defence of tiol interest. The Act is India’s anti-espioge (spy and secret agents )law borrowed from British legacy. It states clearly those actions which involve helping an enemy state against India. It is also stated that one cannot approach for inspection or even pass over prohibited government sites or areas.

Section 3(1)(c) of the Act says that anyone who obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or any note or document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy or which relates to a matter the disclosure of which is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state or friendly relations with foreign states, will be punishable with imprisonment or term which may extend between three years and a maximum of 14 years.

Section (2) of the Act should be borne in mind by a jourlist, as the Act says that on prosecution for an offence punishable under this section, it will not be necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of any particular tendency to show a purpose prejudicial to safety or interests of the state, and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state. In other words, mere possession of such documents will be considered as the basis for prosecution.

In the light of what has been mentioned, it is still a challenge for the media as a whole. Hence it must be wary and careful about obtaining official records. It is important to impose upon itself a code of self-restraint when it comes to obtaining documents instead of showing desperation for such papers and landing them in the hands of enemies of the tion.

But the Act has a different outlook now, as it does not apply to documents gathered by resorting to the Right of Information Act, 2005. The Act ected in 2005 is indeed a great tool in the hands of a jourlist as much as it is with any ordiry citizen.

The Official Secret Act 1923 — dated 10 May 1923 — was ected with the view to consolidate and amend the laws violated by government servants. The Act extends to the whole of India and applies to the servants of the government and to all citizens of India as well — that is, both within the country and outside. It has been reported that 50 cases were registered regarding violations of the Official Secret Act,1923 since 2014. Out of these 50 cases, 30 were registered in 2016, nine in 2015 and 11 in 2014.

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