SC brings CJI's office under RTI Act ambit, but with reservations
13 November 2019
The office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public authority and falls under the ambit of Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court has ruled. The apex court, however, said the right to privacy and confidentiality is an important aspect and has to be balanced while taking a decision on giving out information from the CJI's office.
The Supreme Court also cautioned that RTI cannot be used as tool of surveillance and that judicial independence has to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.
A CJI-led bench said that transparency cannot be allowed to run counter to right to privacy.
It said that only names of judges recommended by the collegium can be disclosed, not the reasons.
The bench said that the information commissioner must apply test of proportionality while entertaining applications seeking information from the CJI's office, keeping in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.
Justice Chandrachud, in a separate judgment, said that judiciary cannot function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional post and discharge public duty.
The five-judge bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed the judgment on an appeal filed by the Supreme Court administration challenging the 2010 order of the Delhi high court which held that the CJI's office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, had contended that courts had time and again given a slew of directions to infuse transparency in the functioning of various institutions by directing them to reveal information and questioned why the judiciary was shying away from introducing transparency in its own functioning.
The bench had agreed that there should be transparency, but added there was a need to do balancing.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the Supreme Court's secretary general, had opposed disclosure of information under RTI on collegium's deliberations.