India issues gag order to curtail ex-servicemen’s freedom of speech
* Order exempts CBI, Armed forces’ personnel
* Officials require undertaking not to reveal information
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: Indian government on Tuesday issued a gag order to stifle the voice of serving and retired officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and 16 other intelligence and security organisations.
It threatens to withhold or withdraw pension of any violators who leak out any sensitive information accessed while in service.
Concerned over former spy masters and top bureaucrats revealing information by talking to the media or by writing books and articles that expose the government’s wrongs, a notification has been issued for obtaining an undertaking from the concerned officials to reveal nothing after their transfer or retirement from any of the 18 central organisations.
The new restrictions bind the officers from revealing any information “to the Press or electronic media or publication of any book, letter, pamphlet, poster or other document, in any form.”
The order, however, does not restrict personnel of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Armed Forces.
It applies to only those intelligence and security related organisations that had also been excluded from the Right to Information Act under Section 24(1) and listed under Schedule 2 of the Act.
Though the RTI Act makes it clear that the corruption and human rights violations even by these organisations will not be excluded, the gag order shuns all information, not even sparing the press releases that the officers may have known while serving.
The notification issued by the Department of Personnel and Training debars the officers from revealing “any material in any form, including documents, memos, emails, opinions, advice, press releases and circulars held or accessed by the government servant while in service.”
The exercise to silence the retired officials had begun after three books by the retired RAW officials, B Raman, Major General (R) VK Singh and K Shankaran Nair created ripples in the agency about revelation of the sensitive secrets.
The department quietly issued the notification on March 31,2008, the significance of which dawned on the bureaucrats only after they got the department’s office memorandum of April 9,2008, regarding the new guidelines.
The office memorandum points out that certain restrictions on the retired officers publishing books and articles were in vogue since 1993, but new guidelines were made necessary “in the contest of the national security concerns in regard to the publication of sensitive information in case of officials who have worked in or are transferred out of the defined sensitive organisations.”
The officials of the intelligence agencies are already prevented from revealing anything under the Intelligence Organisation (Restriction of Rights) Act and yet they are also required to give an undertaking to reveal nothing in any manner. The undertaking is required from the officials to solemnly declare that “save with prior approval of the competent authority, I shall not publish in any manner, while in service or after my retirement from service, any information which I have obtained by virtue of my working in the aforesaid (as listed in Second Schedule of RTI Act) organisation and which is likely to prejudicially affect the (I) sovereignty and integrity of India, (II) the security, (III) strategic, (IV) scientific or (V) economic interests of the State or (VI) in relation with a foreign State or (VII) which would lead to incitement of an office.”
It further adds: “I further agree that in the event of any failure of the above undertaking by me, the decision of the government as to whether it was likely to prejudicially effect any of the seven aspects stated above shall be binding on me. I am aware that the pension which may be granted to me after retirement, in terms of the relevant pension rules can be withheld or withdrawn, in full or part, for any failure of this undertaking given.”
Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
There goes right to information and freedom of speech down the drain.