Official Secrets Act 'archaic', needs relook: Former Vice President Ansari

Ansari said there are so many documents in the country, which are still classified and yet they are public knowledge and published elsewhere.

Published: 10th March 2019 01:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2019 01:16 AM   |  A+A-

Former Vice President M Hamid Ansari (File Photo | EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Amid the government's indication that the Official Secrets Act could be used to investigate the "stolen" Rafale documents, former vice president Hamid Ansari on Saturday said the British-era legislation was "archaic" and needed a relook in the light of today's realities.

Ansari, who was also a career diplomat, said he was always taught that the OSA "operative up to the grave".

He said there are so many documents in the country, which are still classified and yet they are public knowledge and published elsewhere.

In the process it is the loss of the country's scholars, he said.

"So, apparently the Official Secrets Act, to my understanding. I may be wrong, it's like so many other laws we have, archaic, irrelevant in this age when the same thing is available in authentic form elsewhere and simply used if you want to make an example of something," Ansari said.

It is not something which is "operative" in this age, he said.

"It needs to be looked at it again in light of today's realities and in the light of the norms that are prevailing," the former vice president said.

Ansari was responding to a question on the government's indication that it could use the OSA to probe the "missing" Rafale papers.

Stoking a controversy, the government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale fighter jet deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and threatened The Hindu newspaper with the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on them.

Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Act as also contempt of court, Attorney General K K Venugopal had said before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi which invoked strong reaction from journalistic circles.

The Editors Guild of India and other media bodies condemned the government's stand on the Rafale deal reportage, and said any attempt to use the OSA against the media was "reprehensible".

The Guild, in a statement, denounced the "threats" against the media in the matter and urged the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media's freedom and independence.

Venugopal on Friday claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the Defence Ministry and what he meant in his submission before the apex court was that petitioners in the application used "photocopies of the original" papers, deemed secret by the government.

 

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