Verdict on CJI under RTI today

Delhi HC had brought the office of the CJI under the ambit of RTI Act.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce on Wednesday its verdict on a plea opposing Central Information Commission’s (CIC) 2009 order directing the top court’s central public information officer (CPIO) to disclose information on the appointment of judges to the top court sought under the Right to Information Act.

The top court’s secretary-general and the CPIO had moved the apex court on the administrative side challenging November 24, 2009, CIC’s order directing the CPIO to furnish the information sought by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal on the appointment of judges to the top court.

The appeal by the Supreme Court’s secretary-general and the CPIO was heard by five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

The constitution bench in the course of the hearing had addressed two questions “whether the concept of independence of judiciary demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought and whether the information sought amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary.

Other questions were “whether the information sought cannot be furnished to avoid any erosion in the credibility of the decisions and to ensure free and frank expression of honest opinion by all the constitutional functionaries.”

The hearing saw the Bench observing that the cap on the disclosure of information under the Right to Information Act, for protecting the judicial independence, has to be balanced with the larger public interest to know the factors weighing in the appointment of some as judges and others losing the race.

However, attorney general K.K.Venugopal appearing for the Central government had argued that disclosure of information on what transpired in the appointment or elevation of judges would have a bearing on judicial independence and free and frank deliberation in the collegium.

Attorney general had referred to Section 8(1)(e) and Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act to contend that disclosure of information relating to the appointment of judges within the collegium, between the government and the collegium would affect the free deliberation in the collegium and thus would dent judicial independence.

“Disclosure of such highly confidential information will be deleterious to the functioning of the judiciary”, the Attorney General had said opposing any disclosure of information on what transpired within the collegium and between the collegium and the government in the course of the appointment of judges.

On RTI activist Agrawal’s plea for the disclosure of assets by the judges of higher judiciary, the Attorney General representing the Central government had said that the information relating to the assets of judges was personal to them, be left to the judges.

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