Repeal the Official Secrets Act 1923, the most draconian law and misused law in India.

Repeal the Official Secrets Act 1923, the most draconian law and misused law in India.

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Maj Gen VK SINGH started this petition to Prime Minister

The Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) is one of the most draconian laws still in force in India. A legacy of the British Raj, it has often resulted in grave miscarriages that have blotted the record books of the judiciary and sullied our reputation among democratic nations. Eminent jurists and civil rights activists have unequivocally voiced the opinion that the infamous statute should be scrapped. After the enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2005, it has no right to exist, a fact that has been pointed out by Veerappa Moily, heading the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that has already recommended its repeal. Unfortunately, the proposal was shot down by the bureaucrats in the Home Ministry, based on objections from the intelligence agencies.

The OSA has some very interesting provisions. An accused person can be convicted even if there is no evidence against him (Section 3 (2). No court can take cognizance of any offence under this Act unless upon complaint made by a government department (Section 13 (3). What this means is that a common citizen cannot approach the courts, in case he notices a serious case of spying. Even the High Courts and Supreme Court can do nothing, unless the Government decides to prosecute the offender. This is the reason why classified documents are regularly leaked or passed on to unauthorized agencies by bureaucrats. 

Instances of the Official Secrets Act being used to prosecute actual spies and moles are rare. On the other hand, cases of its misuse are legion. Hundreds of innocent citizens have suffered long periods of incarceration under the infamous Act. Notable  examples are the soldiers involved in the Samba Spy case (more than 50 Army officers and soldiers were incarcerated and tortured for over 20 years in a false case of spying, based on the statements of two self confessed spies, who later retracted their statements); two ISRO scientists prosecuted in 1994 for spying (Nambinarayanan was recently  exonerated by the Supreme Court and awarded a compensation of Rupees fifty lacs); Captain BK Subbarao of the Indian Navy, who was arrested at Bombay airport in 1988 and spent 20 months in jail (he was accused of carrying secret documents to a foreign country, when all that he had in his suitcase was his own PhD thesis); newspaper correspondent Iftikhar Gilani was arrested in 2002 for holding secret information (in 2004, the government withdrew the case, after it came to light that the information was publicly available). 

Is it not time that we consigned the Official Secrets Act to the dustbin of history? 

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