State of UP vs. Raj Narain was a landmark cornerstone that widened the scope of the Constitutional Right to freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court realized its verdict by improving the scope of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution and Sections 123 and 162 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Supreme Court of India held that there is a right to receive information when a matter concerns any public interest.
FACTS OF RAJ NARAIN CASE:
- Mr. Raj Narain filed an election petition in which he alleged misuse of public funds by a political party that fraudulently used the finances to re-elect the Prime Minister of India.
- The petition was filed before the Allahabad High Court. The petitioner Raj Narain asked the Government of U.P. to produce the Blue Book, which contained the guidelines for the safety of the Prime Minister when he/she travels.
- The High Court of Allahabad ruled that the Blue Book did not certify the conditions underlying Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which states that no one can give any singular evidence which derives from unpublished sensitive official records which relate to the affairs of the State.
- The High Court of Allahabad ordered that the Blue Book need to be produced, as the non-production of the document will jeopardize public interest, and gave the verdict in favor of Mr. Raj Narain.
- After the verdict of the Allahabad High Court, the Uttar Pradesh State Government appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.
- Does the Bluebook record come under the meaning of Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which defines a government record that is unpublished?
- Does the non-disclosure of this document affect the public interest in any sense?
- The petitioner, Mr. Raj Narain contended that the details of this document must be made public, as the non-disclosure privilege (affidavit as per Section 162 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872) wasn’t raised by the government and the Blue Book had no relation to the affairs of the state.
RATIO & DECISION:
The opinion of the Supreme Court in the State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Raj Narain case was delivered by Justice Alagiriswami and Justice Untwalia.
- The Supreme Court of India was of the opinion that the meaning of Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, revolved around the principle of preventing public injury. The judges stated that for any document which can affect public policy and further developments, the court should have complete access to the documents involved.
- They stated that if the government doesn’t claim timely privilege in any affidavit, then they haven’t fulfilled their obligation as per Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- The decision made sure that when the amount of public interest affected by non-disclosure outlasts the amount of public interest affected by disclosure; the Court had every right to demand the production of the documents.
- The Supreme Court of India instructed that, under Section 162 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, any kind of objection to procuring a particular governmental document, should be put forth and filed on the date of production of the document, as in that case, the court can decide the extent and validity of the objection.
- The Supreme Court of India held the decision of the Allahabad High court to be valid and stated that the role of the judiciary is to decide if a document is favorable to the public interest.
The Supreme Court of India allowed the appeal and said that the rule of non-disclosure of certain records and the principles involved are eminently a part of upholding the public interest.
But it will not apply the rule beyond its scope, and if it fulfills the objective of sections 123 and 162 of the Indian Evidence Act, then there won’t be any need to further penetrate any official privileged government records.
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