Delhi High Court rules SC is under ambit of RTI Act

Institution and its head cant be two distinct authorities

 
Upholding the ruling of the Central Information Commission (CIC), Justice S Ravindra Bhat said: “The CJI is a public authority under the RTI Act and the CJI holds the information pertaining to asset declarations in his capacity as the chief justice; that office is a ‘public authority’ under the Act and is covered by its provisions.”

According to Article 124 of the Constitution, it is clear that the apex court, consisting of the CJI and other judges, is an institution headed by Chief Justice of India. “The institution and its head cannot be two distinct public authorities. They are one and the same. Information, therefore, available with the CJI must be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court,” the 70-page judgment delivered by Justice Bhat said.

The High Court differed with the views of the CJI that the Registrar of the Supreme Court was a part of the Supreme Court and could not be categorised as a public authority that is independent and distinct from the Supreme Court itself (CJI office). Last Friday, Justice Balakrishnan had told a press conference that the Supreme Court was out of the purview of the RTI Act. “The office of the Chief Justice is privy to much information like privileged communication between various Constitutional authorities, including the President, complaints against judges, decision of the collegiums, etc. How can all these information be disclosed and kept with the Supreme Court registry?”

Justice Bhat directed the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court to provide information regarding the assets of the CJI and other judges in four weeks to Subhash Chandra Agarwal, an applicant.
On August 26, the CJI and other judges of the Supreme Court had unanimously resolved to put details of their assets declaration in the public domain. However, the full court resolution had said that the SC would not entertain any RTI application on the information of the assets that would be posted on the Supreme Court website.
Justice Bhat said: “The judicial office is essentially a public trust. Society is, therefore, entitled to expect that a judge must be a man of high integrity, honesty and required to have moral vigour, ethical firmness and impervious to corrupt or venial influences.”

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