Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Our democracy has been transformed into a plutocracy due to lack of informed participation. The top officials in the Union as well as the State Governments and the low caliber politicians in high positions have ruined our motherland. Ninety nine per cent of our population, at the minimum, is being exploited by opportunists; call them industrialists, traders or administrators. The people would never have fallen in this impasse were they not kept bereft of information on how their motherland is being managed. The Right to Information Act, passed both by the peoples representatives in the Loksabha and the States representatives in the Rajyasabha, therefore, is a panacea for recovery of our democracy to an assuring extent.
After the Parliament in both the Houses adopted the Information Bill, the President, who despite being a great scientist, in public perception, is a very simple man, has given his consent to it on 20th June, 2005. But a report has hit headlines in todays mainstream newspapers that his consent is saddled with certain advices that may affect its notification. If the report is correct, we must say that the President is wrong.
According to the report, the President has emphasized that all Presidential communications with the Prime Minister should be kept out of the purview of the new Law. It is fresh in our mind that his office refused to send documents, pertaining to communication between K.R.Narayanan and Atal Behari Vajpayee as President and Prime Minister respectively, in response to requisitions made by Nanavati-Shah Commission probing post-Godhra communal riots in Gujrat. The Gujrat riot has damaged the composite character of our nation. Observations of some high level officials who were at the helm of law and order management then in that State give glimpses of the communal brutalism the Government of that Province had resorted to under Narendra Modi. It is public knowledge that Modi was acting within the BJP framework. Vajpayee as the Prime Minister and Narayanan as the President must not have closed their eyes to what was happenung in Gujrat. How that was taken by both of them? Was Vajpayee with his party protégé or with the Nation? The people have a right to know this for informed participation in democracy. They can know of this if the Judicial Commission does justice to the issues under its probe. It cannot do justice to the issues unless the communications between the two apex functionaries come to its knowledge. The President has failed to understand this. As long as he is the President, he may claim privilege over his communications with his Prime Minister. But to debar a Judicial Probe Commission to go through the communications between a former President and a former Prime Minister not only hampers the probe but also debars people from being informed. It was not in consonance with the tenets of democracy to obstruct a Judicial probe in such a style. But the President did it. Now by advising the government to keep all presidential communications with the PM beyond reach of the Information Act, he has advised the Government to go against the right the Parliament has resolved the people to get.
As we have mentioned supra, top officials have ruined our people through misgovernance. Bureaucracy is synonymous with corruption. Commission agents abound in administration. So the root of misgovernance can be spotted if noting that the top bureaucrats make in various files come to public gaze. The President has wanted this possibility to remain out of reach of the people. In our view, this would kill the spirit of the Right to Information Act.
Ethically incorrect, the Presidents advice, as reported, is also indicative of wrong application of mind. It also is legally wrong.
On receipt of the Bill, the President had only two things to do. He was free to give or refuse consent. If, in his opinion, the Bill was defective, he should have returned the same with his observations and then the Parliament could have taken the next step. But he has not done this. He has given his consent.
Now therefore, the Bill obtains the status of an Act and the central Government is duty bound to notify its enforceability.
At this stage, the Presidents advices carry no legality. The Central Government has no legal right to incorporate these advices in the Act to be notified. If it is done, it would be amending the Act behind back of the Parliament. Once the Parliaments adopts a Bill and the Presidents gives to it his consent, no intervention of the Parliament can be countenanced before the Bill is enforced as an Act. So, before the Right to Information Act is rightfully enforced, no amendment to it is possible. And, the Presidents advice cannot be considered in context of the Act without an amendment to the Act caused by the Parliament.
It seems, the President is under bad advice. He has given his advice obviously after giving his consent to the Bill.
Has he succumbed to some invisible pressure after giving his consent and before sending his consent?
It is better, he should know, if he has advanced these advices, that he has committed a wrong that law does not permit.