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    Judiciary and RTI |loksabha rajya sabha debate

    On November 13, 2019, the Supreme Court in one of its decisions has brought it under the purview of the RTI, terming the office of Chief Justice of India- CJI as a public authority. This decision has been given by the constitutional bench of five judges including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The bench consisted of Chief Justice Justice Ranjan Gogoi, N.V. Ramanna, D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna. After this decision, now information can be sought from the office of CJI by applying under Right to Information- RTI. However, the Supreme Court has clarified that a balance between privacy, autonomy and transparency is necessary.

    Actually, the judicial system has two sides – one is the judiciary and the other is the administration of the judiciary. The Supreme Court has clarified that the judiciary was neither before nor now under the purview of the RTI. But the judiciary administration of the judiciary comes under RTI, being a public authority.

    It is known that under Section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, public authority means such entities:

    • Which is made by the Constitution or any other legislation made under it;
    • Made by the State Legislature or by any other law made thereunder;
    • Made by any notification or order issued by the Central or State Government;
    • Get full or partial government assistance.

    After this decision of the Supreme Court, information will be provided by the CJI office by accepting the RTI application. It is known that according to Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, information means- records, documents, memoranda, e-mails, opinions, advice, press publications, circulars, orders, log books, contracts, reports , Any data or material available in samples, data or mechanical form, whose information may be duly provided by the public authority.

    The background

    • It is known that this decision is related to the request for information of RTI activist Subhash Aggarwal in the year 2009. The RTI activist had asked “Did all the judges of the Supreme Court declare their assets and liabilities before the CJI after a resolution passed in 1997?”
    • The Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central General Information Officer (CPIO), the Secretary General and the Central Public Information Officer- CPIO), refused to give information, stating that the office of the CJI is not a public authority under the RTI Act.

    right to information

    • The matter reached the Chief Information Commissioner, where on 6 January 2009 a full bench headed by the then Chief Information Commissioner directed to give information.
      The Central Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court appealed to the Delhi High Court against this order of the Chief Information Commissioner. Where the Delhi High Court ruled that the office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority under the RTI Act.
    • In 2010, the Central Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court again filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Delhi High Court, whose constitutional bench has given the above decision while hearing.

    Independent judiciary v / s transparency

    The concept of independent judiciary was placed under the “Basic Structure of the Constitution” in the Kesavananda Bharati case. Therefore, it cannot be interfered in any way. The Supreme Court made it clear, keeping in mind that the judiciary cannot be destroyed in the name of transparency, transparency is not an impediment to the functioning of the independent judiciary but it further strengthens the concept of an independent judiciary. By transparency, no one can directly or indirectly try to narrow judicial autonomy.

    right to information act 2005

    Right to privacy v / s transparency and right to information

    The court has clarified that information of judges’ property etc. under RTI cannot be made public as it would affect the right of privacy of judges.

    The court has said that ‘motive’ or ‘motive’ has to be kept in mind under each RTI. If there is a demand for information in the public interest, on the other hand, the concept of independent judiciary will require privacy in a case, then privacy will be given priority.

    Collegium system v / s right to information

    With regard to the collegium system, the court clarified that information in the collegium can be viewed in two forms – first ‘input’ and second ‘output’. The ‘output’ of the collegium is the final decision regarding the selection of judges which is public but the ‘input’ contains data of various information of judges which cannot be made public as it would violate the right of privacy of judges.

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