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Tuesday 28 January 2020

CJI office now answerable to you under RTI Act

The apex court upholds the Delhi High Court ruling 'transparency does not undermine judicial independence'

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 3-2 on petitions challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to bring the Office of the Chief Justice (CJI) within the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The apex court upheld the Delhi High Court ruling “transparency does not undermine judicial independence”. The High Court judgment had stated that the post of chief justice should come under the purview of Right to Information.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi pronounced the verdict at 2 PM today. Other members of the bench were Justice NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta agreed to the decision written by Justice Sanjeev Khanna, however, Justice Ramanna and Justice DY Chandrachud expressed their different views on some issues.

The judgment pronouncement notice was made public on the official website of the Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The Constitution bench of five judges had on 4 April reserved the judgment on the appeals filed by the top court general secretary and central public information officer against the orders of the High Court and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

CJI Ranjan Gogoi had earlier said that an institution should not be harmed in the name of transparency. In November 2007, RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal had filed an RTI petition seeking information about the assets of the judges of the Supreme Court, which was denied to him.

Nearly a decade ago, the Delhi High Court ruled that the Chief Justice’s Office and the Supreme Court should give their information under the RTI in the same way as other public authorities in the country.

The Supreme Court took this decision under Article 124 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has upheld the decision given by the Delhi High Court in 2010.

Due to this ruling of the Supreme Court, the decisions of the Collegium will hereafter be put on the website of the Supreme Court. While reading the judgment, Justice Ramanna said that RTI cannot be used as a means of espionage.

When information on this matter was refused, the matter reached the Central Information Commissioner. CIC asked for information. After this, the matter was challenged in the Delhi High Court. He upheld this order.

In 2010, the General Secretary of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court went to the Supreme Court against this order of the High Court.

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