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Supreme Court puts CJI office in RTI ambit

Nov 14, 2019

The Chief Justice of India's office will now fall within the ambit of the right to information; the Supreme Court's constitution bench upholds the Delhi High Court order, says only names of judges recommended for appointment by collegium can be disclosed, not the reasons.

The of the Chief Justice of India would now fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act. In a significant judgment..the Supreme Court itself said on Wednesday that the CJI's office is a public authority under the RTI Act. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed the appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.

SC CONDITIONS ON RTI USE

-- RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance
-- Judicial independence has to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency
-- and only names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment can be disclosed not the reasons

Apart from the CJI, those comprising the constitution bench delivering the judgment included Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The CJI & Justices Deepak Gupta & Sanjeev Khanna wrote one judgment..while Justices N V Ramana & D Y Chandrachud penned separate verdicts. The top court held that-
 
-- the Right to Privacy is an important aspect and it has to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice
-- Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of judiciary and transparency go hand in hand
-- Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be a balancing formula for Right to Privacy and Right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach

It was RTI Activist S C Agrawal who first raised the issue of CJI's office falling within RTI ambit. When the Central Information Commission directed the Supreme Court to provide the informtion sought in 2008, the matter reached the Delhi High Court.

Several RTI activists have welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict. It was on the 10th of January, 2010 that the High Court decreed that the CJI's office comes within RTI's ambit, saying judicial independence was not a judge's privilege but a responsibility cast upon him. The matter then went to a 3-judge divisional bench which dismissed  the Supreme Court's contention that bringing the CJI's office within the RTI Act would "hamper" judicial independence..

Clearly, the top court's decision will not only strengthen the right to information but will also enhance transparency in the country.

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