The Parliament introduced the Public Records Act on 21 December 1993 and enforced it on 1 March 1995. The primary objective of this Act is to systematise the preservation, administration, and management of public records. The Act administers public records of the Central Government, Union Territories, Government Committees, Statutory Bodies, Corporations, and PSUs.
Table of Contents
What are Public Records?
Section 2 (e) of the Public Records Act 1993 defines ‘Public Records’ held by any record-creating agency as follows:
- Any document, file, or manuscript,
- Any microfiche, microfilm, facsimile (Carbon) copies of the document,
- Reproduced image/images contained in such copies,
- Any other computerised/digitally produced material.
Role of the Director General
Section 2 (b) details the role of Director General. According to Section 3 (2), the central government can authorise the Director General by an order to perform certain functions as follows:
- Supervising, managing, and controlling the archives.
- Accepting the deposits of permanent public records.
- Taking in custody, utilising, and withdrawing public records.
- Arranging, preserving, and exhibiting public records.
- Preparing inventories, reference materials, catalogues, and indices of public records.
- Accepting public records from private sources and defunct bodies.
- Taking out surveys and inspecting public records.
- Securing, arranging, and maintaining public records at the offices of record-creating agencies and archives.
- Advising record-creating agencies.
- Destroying and disposing of public records.
- Securing public records at times of national emergencies.
- Providing authorised copies of public records.
- Developing, promoting, and analysing the record management techniques and standards for improvements.
- Monitoring and managing access to public records.
- Organising training programs for administering the archives and managing the records. Section 15 states that he/she can set guidelines and standards for course curriculum and examinations.
- Promoting the use of available spaces for preserving public records.
- Receiving records management and disposal practices reports from the Records Officer.
- Acquiring any public record of national or historical importance by lease, gift, and purchase.
Who is a Records Officer?
Section 5 of the Public Records Act states Record Officer is any officer that every record-creating agency must nominate for discharging the functions as per the Act. A record-creating agency may approve as many record rooms as it deems fit, and the Record Officer is in charge of such rooms.
Role of Records Officer
Section 6 of the Public Record Act outlines the following responsibilities of a Record Officer:
- Properly managing, maintaining, and preserving public records that he/she is in charge.
- Reviewing all public records periodically and rejecting temporary public records at regular intervals.
- Evaluating public records that are more than 25 years old after consulting with the National Archives of India or Archives of Union Territories while preserving the public records of permanent value.
- Reviewing for reducing the ranks of classified records.
- Adopting standards, techniques, and procedures as recommended by the National Archives of India for improving the record management system and the security of public records.
- Submitting annual reports to the Director General or Head of Archives
- Preserving the records of any inactive entity/body by transferring them to the National Archives of India or Archives of Union Territories for preservation.
- Destroying and disposing public records in a prescribed manner.
- Assisting the National Archives of India and Archives of Union Territory.
- Compiling and consolidating annual indices, organisational history, annual supplements, and retention schedule for public records.
Section 7 of the Act states that at times of unauthorised destruction, removal, alteration, or defacement of any public records, the Record officer can restore and recover such public records. He must inform the Director General or the Head of the Archives without delay about such incidents and his/her actions for the restoration. He/she can also take assistance from government officers or anyone else for such a purpose.
Violations under the Public Records Act
Various sections of the Public Records Act have laid down prohibitions relating to public records as follows:
- Section 4: The Act prohibits any person from taking public records to a foreign country without the permission of the central government. However, this provision does not apply to public records meant for official purposes.
- Section 8 (1): No person can destroy or dispose of public records in any manner except the prescribed records.
- Section 8 (2): No person should destroy any public records before 1982 unless the Director General or head of archives considers the document defaced and no longer suitable for archival use.
- Section 10: No person can transfer any public records with security classification to the National Archives of India or the Archives of the Union territories.
Who can Access Public Records?
According to Section 12 of the Public Records Act 1993, the following records can be accessed by a legitimate research scholar:
- Any unclassified public records that are more than 30 years old (30 years is counted from the year when the public record was first opened), and
- Are transferred to the National Archives of India or the Archives of the Union territory.
- Any Record Creating Agency may also permit access to someone in its custody in the prescribed manner.
However, this access can be subject to specific conditions, exceptions, and restrictions.
Archival Advisory Board
The Central Government has the power to establish an Archival Advisory Board. The head of the board is the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Culture.
The Archival Advisory Board has the following functions:
- To set norms for archivists’ training.
- To direct for acquiring public records from private holdings and to deal with such matters in a prescribed manner.
- To advise the government of the centre and UTs for fulfilling the objective of this Act.
The Central Government enacted the Public Records Act of 1993 to legally protect the functioning of record-creating agencies. The Act provides for the roles and responsibilities of the Director General, Records Officer, and Government.
The Act outlines the formulation of the Archival Advisory Board for advising the government to advise on matters related to public records. Furthermore, the Act provides a clear standardisation for arranging, managing, disposing, and preserving public records. The Act establishes authentication of public records and sheds light on many grey areas in matters related to public records.
FAQs on the Public Records Act 1993
What is a Record Creating Agency?
The Record Creating Agency is any ministry, department, or office of the Central Government, undertaking, funded or controlled by the Central Government or any department or office of Union Territories Administration.
Who appoints the Director General?
The central government appoints any officer authorised to perform the functions related to public records as per Section 2 (b).
What is the penalty for the violation of the Public Records Act 1993?
The offences mentioned in Sections 4 and 8 of the Act are punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to Rs 10,000 or both.
What powers does the Central Government have according to the Public Records Act 1993?
According to Section 3 of the Public Records Act, the Central Government can regulate, supervise, and coordinate the functions related to Public records under this Act. The Central Government can also make laws to make the Act effective through an Official Gazette as per Section 17 of the Act.
Can private sources also give public records?
Private sources can gift records of national and historical importance to the National Archives of India or the Administration of Union Territory.