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Plea seeking that Govt ensure availability of accurate, reasonably priced hard copies of Acts, Rules, Legislations: SC issues notice

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court has issued notice on a petition urging it to direct the government to ensure the publication and availability of authentic, accurate and reasonably priced hard copies of Acts, Rules, notifications et al.

The petition by Advocate Arpit Bhargava is filed against an order passed by the Delhi High Court in 2019.

The plea submits that the Union of India, which holds copyright on Acts of Parliament, cannot be allowed to infringe with impunity the "right to know" of the citizens, encompassed within the ambit of Article 19(1)(a).

It is highlighted that this provision obligates the government to bring to knowledge of citizens the law prevalent in the country and to disseminate knowledge about the same through the publication of Acts of Parliament, notifications, Rules, Regulations etc. These publications should not only be accurate and authentic but also reasonably priced, it is added.

"There is a blatant laxity on the part of the Respondents in not giving effect to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of Constitution of India by not publishing on its own..."
The SLP says

The public is left to suffer at te hands of certain private players who have gained a monopoly in the business of publishing laws and these players are charging high prices from the public for the same, it is claimed.

Moreover, the Acts of Parliament, being protected under copyright held by the government and being in public domain, could not have been allowed to be used by private entities for commercial gains, the SLP further submits. This amounts to a violation of copyright laws as well, in addition to being in violation of fundamental rights, the petitioner contends.

When the petitioner had moved the Delhi High Court with a PIL in this regard, the same was disposed of after addressing contentions made in relation to copyright violation. However, the prayer for ensuring availability of hard copies was not dealt with.

Pressing for the prayer for making available hard copies of laws, the lawyer has now approached the Supreme Court. The Bench of CJI SA Bobde with Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy took up the matter for hearing on Friday via video conferencing and went on to issue notice to the Centre.

The petition was filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan.

Read the Order:

Arpit Bhargava vs UOI (Bar Acts) - 22.05.2020.pdf
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