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Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking minutes of SC Collegium meeting on judges’ appointment

The apex court in 2019 had refused to provide the information to the applicant, RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj.

The Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal seeking agenda, minutes and resolution of a Supreme Court Collegium meeting dated December 12, 2018, under the RTI Act. The apex court in 2019 had refused to provide the information to the applicant, RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj.

The division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that a perusal of the Collegium resolution dated January 10, 2019, indicates that the Collegium had met on December 12, 2018, to consider the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court as well as to consider other proposals of transfer of Chief Justices of the high courts.

“However, the required consultation could not be undertaken and completed as winter vacations intervened, and by the time the courts reopened, the composition of the Collegium had undergone a change,” it said.

The court further said that the January 10, 2019 resolution indicates that subsequent to the reopening of the court, the newly constituted Collegium deemed it appropriate to consider the matter afresh and proposals were re-evaluated in light of the additional material that had become available. “The resolution dated 03.10.2017 does not indicate that even those decisions that have not been either finalised or crystallised into a resolution have to be uploaded; only those decisions pertaining to information stipulated in the resolution dated 03.10.2017 need to be uploaded on the website,” it said.

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Bhardwaj in February 2019 had filed an RTI request before the Supreme Court seeking copy of the agenda, decisions and resolution of the Collegium meeting in question. While the central public information officer (CPIO) in March 2019 refused to provide the information, the first appellate authority held that the SC Collegium resolution dated January 10, 2019, makes it clear that certain decisions were taken in the December 12, 2018, meeting but since consultations could not be completed, no resolution was formally passed.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) upheld the Supreme Court administration decision. A single bench of the High Court on March 30 dismissed Bhardwaj’s petition against the CIC order, saying it finds no ground to doubt the apex court response that no resolution was drawn in respect of the meeting. No “cogent material” has been placed before it to convince it to take a contrary view, Justice Yashwant Varma had said in the ruling.

In the appeal filed before the division bench through advocate Prashant Bhushan, Bhardwaj relied on an excerpt from the autobiography of Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. In ‘Justice for the Judge’, Gogoi has mentioned that the Collegium in its December 2018 meeting had agreed to recommend the names of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, who was then the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, and Justice Rajendra Menon, the then Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, for elevation to the Supreme Court. According to the book, the decision was kept in abeyance as the news of the elevation of two chief justices was leaked.

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The court said that the reliance played on the news article and the excerpt from the book fail to demonstrate as to whether the decisions allegedly taken were merely verbal or had been crystalised into a written resolution that could come under the ambit of information under the RTI Act.

“From a perusal of the material on record, the reasoning of the learned single judge with respect to the fact that no resolution was drawn on 12.12. 2018 does not require any interference. Resultantly, no interference is required reversing the orders of the authorities below and the order passed by the learned single judge,” it said.

First published on: 27-07-2022 at 11:39 IST
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