ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Old Archival Laws, New Archives

Digital records are radically different from paper records, both in their form as well as nature, and present new opportunities as well as challenges. Unfortunately, both legal and institutional structures remain oblivious to these challenges. This article lists the problems with the present archival system and points to the way ahead to develop a new archival culture for the digital age. Otherwise we risk losing the chance to archive our present for future generations.

Archives are the institutional repo-sitories for non-current public records in India. According to the Public Records Act (PRA), 1993, any record generated by the central government, union territory administration, public sector undertakings, statutory bodies and corporations, and commissions and committees constituted by the central government is a public record. As archives and records fall under the concurrent list of the Constitution, there is no single archival law for the entire country, though most of the states follow or have laws more or less compliant with the PRA. For instance, the 25-year rule is common for many states and the centre. This rule stipulates that every record which is 25 years old has to be appraised and if deemed worthy of permanent retention shall be transferred to the archives. In other words, the creators of records have no right to keep a record which is older than 25 years for even if it is not worthy of archival preservation it may be destroyed.

The Province of Paper

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