Official Secrets Act

#GS2 #Polity&Governance #Acts


News : The Delhi police has arrested a strategic affairs analyst and two others – a 30- year-old Chinese woman and her “Nepalese accomplice” – under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). The police claimed that Rajeev Sharma, the analyst, had passed on information such as the deployment of Indian troops on the border to Chinese intelligence officers. The other two have been arrested for allegedly “supplying him (Sharma) huge amounts of money routed through hawala channels for conveying sensitive information to Chinese intelligence”.

  • Official Secrets Act has its roots in the British colonial era. The original version was The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV), 1889.
  • It was amended and made more stringent in the form of The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904, during Lord Curzon’s tenure as Viceroy of India.
  • In 1923, a newer version was notified. The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.
  • It broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, covered under Section 3, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, under Section 5.
  • Secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, or information.
  • Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information and the person receiving the information can be punished.


What is the Official Secrets Act?

  • The Official Secrets Act of 1923 is India’s anti-espionage. It states that actions which involve helping an enemy state against India are strongly condemned. 
  • It also states that one cannot approach, inspect, or even pass over a prohibited government site or area. 
  • As per the act, helping an enemy state can be in the form of communicating a sketch, plan, a model of an official secret, or of official codes or passwords, to the enemy.


Prosecution and Penalties

  • Punishments under the Act range from three to life imprisonment (if the intent is to declare war against India – section 5 ) imprisonment. 
  • A person prosecuted under this Act can be charged with the crime even if the action was unintentional and not intended to endanger the security of the state. 
  • The Act only empowers persons in positions of authority to handle official secrets, and others who handle it in prohibited areas or outside them are liable for punishment.
  • Journalists have to help members of the police forces above the rank of the sub-Inspector and members of the military with an investigation regarding an offence, up to and including revealing his sources of information.
  • Under the Act, search warrants may be issued at any time if the magistrate determines that based on the evidence there is enough danger to the security of the state.
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