Upholding the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict, the Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that the office of the Chief Justice of India was a public authority under the Right to Information Act (RTI). While cautioning that RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance, the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led bench held that judicial independence had to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.
In three separate but concurring judgments, the Supreme Court bench, also comprising justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, dismissed the three appeals filed by the Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court. Follow LIVE Updates
The Supreme Court’s Central Public Information Officer had appealed against a January 2010 ruling of the Delhi High Court that held that the Supreme Court and CJI are “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The Supreme Court said only names of judges recommended by Collegium could be disclosed and not the reasons, holding that method of appointment had an impact on the independence of the judiciary.
In his judgment, Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the independence of judiciary and transparency go hand in hand. Justice NV Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be balancing formula for Right to Privacy and Right to transparency.
Justice Ramana, meanwhile, held that independence of the judiciary should be protected from breach while Justice DY Chandrachud said judges cannot function in total insulation and also function under Rule of Law.
The Delhi HC had upheld a Central Information Commission order directing the SC CPIO to provide information sought by an applicant on assets of SC judges. The Supreme Court bench had earlier said “somewhere a line has to be drawn” on how much information about the process can be made public lest it affects the institution itself.
“Nobody is for a system of opaqueness. Nobody wants to remain in darkness. Nobody wants to keep anyone in darkness. The question is where do we draw a line. Somewhere a line has to be drawn. In the name of transparency, you cannot destroy the institution,” CJI Gogoi had said, reserving the verdict.
The move to bring the office of the CJI under RTI Act was initiated by activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it is hearing the appeals due to “doctrine of necessity”.
(With PTI inputs)