People's Union for Civil Liberties & Anr. Vs. U.O.I. & Ors.
Coram: CJI , S.B. Sinha
2004 AIR 1442 2004(1 )SCR232 2004(2 )SCC476 2004(1 )SCALE91 2004(1 )JT152
Atomic Energy Act, 1962: Section 18-Restriction-On disclosure of information-Power of Central Government-Held: Central Government empowered to restrict disclosure of certain information to the public-Such power neither uncontrolled nor unguided. Constitution of India, 1950: Article 19(1) (g). Right of information-Nature of-Held: Is a facet of `speech and expression' and therefore, a fundamental right. Right of information-Reasonable restriction on-Imposed by S. 18 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962-Permissibility of-Held: The Act dealt with a restrictive subject-Hence, prohibition of disclosure of information imposed by S. 18 a reasonable restriction. Articles 32 and 226-Judicial review-Scope and power of-Order massed by Central Government regarding non-disclosure of certain information `o the public-Whether amenable to judicial review-Held: The Court would tot normally exercise its power of judicial review unless the order suffers from mala fide, dishonesty or corrupt practice-The order passed by Central Government did not suffer from such infirmities-Hence not interfered with. Evidence Act, 1872: Section 123-Evidence as to affairs of State-Documents-Immunity from disclosure-Claim of privilege-Held: In order to claim such immunity the documents must relate to affairs of State and that such disclosure must be against interest of State or public interest. Interpretation of Statutes: Constitutionality of an Act-Presumption of-Held: Even extends to a law, which imposes reasonable restrictions on fundamental right. How far and to what extent the right to information and the restrictions that could be imposed should.be balanced is the question involved in these appeals arising out of the impugned judgment of the High Court. The appellants contended that the citizens have a right to have access to the copies of the AERB report, under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, that Section 18 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 was invalid on the ground that there were no guidelines for the exercise of discretion in notifying a document as a secret document. The High Court dismissed the writ petition. Hence the appeal. On behalf of the respondents, it was contended that right of information as contained in Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution was subject to reasonable restrictions contained in clause (2) thereof; that if the report of AERB was disclosed it would be against the interest of the State and, therefore, the provisions of Sections 123 and 162 of the Evidence Act, 1872 were attracted.
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