Vol. 19 Issue 1 (2023)
The Right to Receive Information: Conceptual Problems
This article studies the “right to receive information” or the “right to know”, a judicially-recognised right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It attempts to show, through an analysis of judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts, that the right rests on a shaky philosophical foundation and that there are inconsistencies in how the right is judicially treated in terms of its structure and content.
First, the article questions the logic that the “right to know” is implicit in Article 19(1)(a) merely because it makes the exercise of free speech more meaningful. Such a logic was authoritatively rejected by the 7-judge bench in Maneka Gandhi (1978).
Second, the article discusses judgments which have effectively enforced the right to know horizontally, without adequate justifications. The recent pronouncement of the Constitution Bench in Kaushal Kishore (2023) adds to the confusion.
Third, the article discusses judgments that have either included or excluded information from the scope of this right. It is submitted that no coherent principle is discernible from a study of the inclusions and the exclusions, and no such principle is forthcoming from the courts themselves. Before concluding, the article briefly discusses
Shrutanjaya Bhardwaj is an Advocate at the Supreme Court of India.