What is the right to know, know from Justice Katju

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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The right to know

By Justice Markandey Katju

The judgment of the Indian Supreme Court on electoral bonds can be summed up in a nutshell : in a democracy people have the right to know which business house/businessman gave how much money to which political party, and for what reason, so as to enable the people to effectively excercise their franchise.

I have already expressed my opinion that the judgment will have no effect in the coming parliamentary elections in India, as most voters in India have only caste and religion in mind when casting their vote, and donations to political parties are among their least considerations

But apart from that, though in theory democracy means government by the people, for the people, and of the people, as US President Lincoln said, and therefore theoretically people have a right to know about public affairs, in practice few democracies in the world give the people such a right.

For instance, the American people were kept deceived for years about the Vietnam War, until it was revealed by the Pentagon Papers disclosure in 1971.

Similarly, the British people were deceived by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that the Munich Agreement of 1938 with Hitler would ensure 'peace in our times'.

Hence democracy is just a facade to hoodwink the people that they are governing themselves, when the truth is that they are being governed by some powerful and crafty vested interests, who claim to represent the people ( though they only represent themselves, seeking power and pelf ).

Important decisions which may affect the lives of tens of millions of people are invariably taken not publicly or even in parliament, and without consulting the people, but behind their backs, in closed doors, and by a small number of persons ( ministers, bureaucrats, etc ).

One is reminded of the video series 'Yes Minister' where the senior civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby explains how British democracy works, and why truth must be kept away from the 'barbarians' ( i.e. the people )
So the Indian Supreme Court's decision, however well intentioned it may be, is based on a fallacious premise.

(Justice Katju is a former Judge, of the Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, the Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

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