SC reserves verdict on opening CJI office to RTI
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on a petition seeking clarification whether the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) is covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
 
On Wednesday, Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal had submitted that sharing information connected with collegium, which is under the CJI office, would make judges and the government shy and destroy judicial independence.
 
A constitution bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, was told by the AG that if the RTI is applied to the collegium, it would create a sense of fear in the judiciary and impede a free and frank discussion between judges.
 
Venugopal also said that the court should refrain from opening up the highly confidential correspondence of the Supreme Court's collegium and its workings under the RTI Act.
 
The AG represented the Supreme Court's Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), who is the authority tasked to respond to RTI queries related to the court.
 
Appearing for RTI activist Subhash Chander Aggarwal, advocate Prashant Bhushan on Thursday argued before the bench for the entire day urging the judiciary to put forth the collegium process in public domain.
 
"If SC doesn't allow disclosure of information pertaining to judges' appointment, it would appear that the judiciary is hypocritical -- though it asks other authorities to provide this or that info, it doesn't allow disclosure of information pertaining to its own affairs," said Bhushan.
 
Concluding the argument, Venugopal reiterated his stand that the bench should not allow collegium process to fall under the RTI.
 
The bench asked Bhushan to submit the written arguments on Monday.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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RTI shouldn't be used to get collegium info, AG tells SC
The RTI law should not be used as a tool for disclosure of highly confidential information like deliberations of the collegium in appointment or elevation of judges and if it is permitted, it will prove deleterious to the functioning of the judiciary, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
 
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi commenced hearing on three appeals filed in 2010 by apex court's Secretary General and its Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) against the Delhi High Court order holding that the CJI's office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
 
It was a unique case of Attorney General Venugopal appearing for the Supreme Court in the Supreme Court. 
 
"What is the extent of disclosures that can be made, keeping the judicial independence in view," CJI Gogoi asked as the court heard its Secretary General and CPIO's pleas challenging the Central Information Commission's (CIC) November 24, 2009 order directing them to furnish information sought by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal on the appointment of SC judges.
 
The CJI also said the cap on disclosure of information under RTI for protecting judicial independence has to be balanced with the larger public interest. 
 
Venugopal, representing Supreme Court's Secretary General, said that the first case pertained to the CIC's direction to reveal deliberations of the collegium and its communications with the government on the issue of appointments of former judges H.L. Dattu, R.M. Lodha and A. Ganguly in the apex court in supersession of Justices A.P. Shah, A.K. Patnaik and V.K. Gupta.
 
"Disclosure of such highly confidential information will be deleterious to the functioning of the judiciary," he told the bench which also comprised Justices N.V. Ramana, D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
 
Venugopal said that the second case was regarding the CIC's direction on revealing of personal assets of the top court judges, and the third was regarding the direction to the CPIO of the SC to divulge the information under RTI , especially the alleged action of a Union Minister who tried to use it as an influence on a Madras High Court judge.
 
Opposing disclosure of information under RTI on collegium's deliberations, the AG also pointed that the details of assets of judges falls under the right to privacy, and it could be shared in "larger public interest". 
 
However, he supported the disclosure of information with regard to attempt of the minister to influence the Madras High Court judge.
 
Arguing that the communication between the collegium and the government should be kept confidential, the AG said the disclosure of reasons for a judge or a lawyer not succeeding in getting appointed or elevated, based on the intelligence report and other inputs, would leave him ostracised, his family ruined and career lost. 
 
"You may be right in individual cases, but the larger question remains," said CJI Gogoi pointing to section 8(2) of the RTI Act that provides for disclosure of information in the larger public interest.
 
To his argument that public servants belonging to all India services were mandated by rules to disclose their assets, both moveable and immovable, CJI Gogoi said nobody wanted information on judges who were rich when they started on the bench but were poor today.
 
The Bench would adjudicate on "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".
 
It would also look into "whether the information sought cannot be furnished to avoid any erosion in the credibility of the decisions and to ensure a free and frank expression of honest opinion by all the constitutional functionaries".
 
Venugopal said the right to know is part of freedom of speech and expression, but it shall be subjected to reasonable restrictions.
 
The bench also asked Venugopal to apprise it on the position regarding public disclosure of assets by the lawmakers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
 
The hearing will continue on Thursday.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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Can't deny AI disinvestment info under RTI: CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Civil Aviation Ministry to provide Lucknow-based activist Nutan Takur information regarding the disinvestment of Air India (AI).
 
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Ministry had under Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act denied Thakur information related to the records of the deliberations of the Cabinet.
 
According to the PIO, the Cabinet had in principle approved the proposed disinvestment of the national carrier, though the process had not been completed.
 
Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha said that the Ministry had grossly erred in invoking Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act to deny information to Thakur, despite the PIO himself admitting to the Cabinet decision in this regard.
 
The Commission directed the PIO to provide Thakur within 15 days the information available with the Ministry and send it a compliance report.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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