When Information Technology Act 2000 was
enacted way back in 2000, a few provisions were introduced in the Act to
enable e-Governance. One amongst them was Section 8 which enabled the
Government to maintain Gazettes in electronic form.
The section states:
8. Publication of
rules, regulation, etc, in Electronic Gazette
Where any law
provides that any rule, regulation, order, bye-law, notification or any
other matter shall be published in the Official Gazette, then, such
requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such rule,
regulation, order, bye-law, notification or any other matter is
published in the Official Gazette or Electronic Gazette:
where any rule, regulation, order, bye-law, notification or any other
matters published in the Official Gazette or Electronic Gazette, the
date of publication shall be deemed to be the date of the Gazette which
was first published in any form
The obvious intention of introducing this
section was to satisfy the legal requirements regarding publishing of
Gazettes and to provide legal recognition to e-Gazettes. A normal reading
of intention behind such a measure is to bring greater transparency,
convenience and economy to the system of publishing Gazettes. It would be
in order for the Government under this section to start publishing
Gazettes in e-form and start discontinuing issue of paper based Gazette
Notifications. Those who want a paper copy can always print out the
e-documents. Incase the print copy is required for judicial purpose, they
can get it certified under Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act.
The Government has now taken decisive steps
to replace paper based transactions in filing of corporate IT returns as
well as MCI returns. Similar steps in other functions of the Government
are therefore in order. Gazette publication could be considered as one
other initiative that is feasible to be converted from paper form to only
After nearly 8 years since the legal
enablement through ITA 2000, the the Government of India took the
first steps in publication of Gazette notifications in e-form when it
launched the website
http://egazette.nic.in/. The website which was launched in May 2008 (ref:
press release) is maintained by the ministry of urban
department which earlier was entrusted with the functions of printing the
While launching the website, it is reported
that the Union Minister of Urban Development Shri Jaipal Reddy stated
that this is an initiative to empower the citizens and bona fide users.
He also reportedly stated that "e-Gazette will enable people to have
access and obtain the Gazette notifications issued by the Government
immediately on its uploading on payment of the prescribed price of that
notification. The e-Gazette will also help the media, social activists
and many users for various other purposes like research, court cases and
settlement of legal documents to a great extent".
The PIB sources stated that the Government
expects to increase its revenue from the sales of Gazettes after this
innovation which were presently around Rs 5 crores per annum.
It is observed from the website that what is
available is PDF copies of printed gazette notifications which can be
downloaded after payment of the required fee. If the user is aware of a
notification, he can fill in the particulars and search for a copy.
While the facilitation of obtaining of a
copy through the web is welcome, it is necessary to raise a serious
objection to the Government's intention in converting this e-Governance
initiative to a "Revenue Generation Measure". Gazette notifications are
considered to be the rules of Governance of Citizens and every Citizen is
entitled to know what are the rules under which he is governed without
being required to pay for this information.
The website also appear to claim "Copyright"
on the publication which is debatable since the information is already in
the public domain. Even otherwise it is not ethical for the Government to
claim "Copyright" on what is part of the rules of Governance.
It is also essential to remember that any
Citizen may request the same information through the RTI process at a
nominal cost. If every interested citizen files an RTI application for
the gazette notifications on a CD, the efforts required to provide the
same would be expensive.
Naavi.org therefore requests the Ministry of
Urban Development to make every gazette notification downloadable free of
cost by every Citizen of India.
If necessary, the Government may ask for
registration based on citizenship verification in the form of Voter's ID
provided they have the mechanism to verify the same.
It is also suggested that the publication of
the print form of the gazette may be discontinued if the Government wants
to reduce costs.
We invite all public spirited like minded
individuals and organizations in India to join in this campaign to get
the Gazette Notifications online free of cost.
January 23, 2009
P.S: Since Naavi raised this issue on the website and in some other
e-groups, several views and opinions have been received. These have been
consolidated here. Since these views were given in different fora, the
names of the persons have been withheld and only opinions are expressed.
Once the consent from the writers is obtained, the details may be added.