Collegium deliberations cannot be made public, says AG

The Supreme Court. PTI file photo

Attorney General K K Venugopal on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that disclosing deliberations of Collegium in appointing or overlooking senior judges would open "pandora's box" and this would adversely affect the independence of judiciary. 

Representing the Supreme Court Secretary General, the top law officer submitted before a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that disclosure of such highly confidential information will be deleterious to the functioning of the judiciary.

He was arguing on three appeals filed in 2010 by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court respectively against the orders of the Delhi High Court holding that the office of the CJI comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

He said that judges performed a constitutional function as Collegium members and held "free and frank" discussions on elevation and appointment of judges. Their deliberations cannot be made public as it would breach their "privilege and fiduciary" position.

The high court orders related to the Central Information Commission's direction to reveal deliberations of 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 top court bypassing Justices A P Shah, A K Patnaik and V K Gupta.

The second case pertained to CIC's direction on disclosure of personal assets by apex court judges. The third one was related to direction to the CPIO of the apex court to disclose the information under RTI about alleged action of a Union Minister who attempted to influence a Madras HC judge.

Venugopal said though the details of assets of judges constituted personal information and are covered under right to privacy, they may be provided in "larger public interest". He, supported the disclosure of information with regard to attempt of a minister to influence the Madras High Court judge.

The law officer extensively referred to the 1981 judgement of a seven judge bench in the judges transfer case, also known as S P Gupta case, and said that in today's changing times the verdict will have no application.

He said that only the judge concerned can seek such information from the Collegium and such information cannot be given to a third party.

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