oppn parties CJI's Office Is Brought Under The RTI Act But Reasons For Most Decisions Might Still Not Be Disclosed

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  • Citizenship Bill to be tabled in the Lok Sabha today. Heated debate likely
  • Domestic tourism in Kashmir slumps by 87% in August-November period
  • Prime Minister Modi says police must make women feel safe
  • West Indies beat India by 8 wickets in the second T20 at Thiruvananthpuram
  • Rahul Gandhi says the NDA government kept Chidambaram in jail for so many days in order to take revenge
  • Kohli reclaims the top spot in ICC rankings from Steve Smith
  • Cabinet clears the Citizenship Bill. It will be placed in the Lok Sabha in a day or two
  • Hindu Jagran Manch members clash with the police in Kolkata after being refused permission to take out a rally
  • West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar says important files were sent late to him and his delay in signing them draws criticism from the TMC. It also brings the state assembly to a halt
  • 92,000 BSNL & MTNL employees apply for early retirement taking advantage of the new government offer. It will result in an annual savings of Rs 8.700 cr for the merged entity
  • Dengue deaths multiply in Kolkata even as the CM, Mamata Banerjee, asks the opposition not to politicize the matter
  • Government orders inquiry into the breach of security at Priyanka Vadra's house
  • Chennai-based engineer Shanmuga Subramanian helps Nasa find the pieces of Vikram lander on the Moon's surface
  • New Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray says his administration will take back cases against Dalits and activists in the Bhima Koregaon case
  • Dhawan calls his dismissal "nonsense"
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CJI's Office Is Brought Under The RTI Act But Reasons For Most Decisions Might Still Not Be Disclosed

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.

The Supreme Court has done well to bring the office of the Chief Justice of India under the RTI Act. It was the Delhi High Court which had first ruled that the CJI's office should come under the said act. The five-judge apex court bench has now confirmed the same, but with certain qualifications. It has asked Information Commissioners under the RTI Act to bear in mind that the independence of the judiciary and the right to privacy is not compromised before accepting applications.

The ordinary citizen will be able to seek information on appointments and transfers of judges to high courts and the Supreme Court but he or she will not be allowed to know the reasons behind the decisions. This is mainly because the collegium decisions are based on inputs about the judges from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the IB is not under the RTI Act. Hence, any information a citizen seeks about why the decision to transfer a judge was taken would in all probability be met with the standard reply that it was based on IB inputs and hence cannot be disclosed.

But the very fact that the court has decided to be transparent is a reason to celebrate. For, citing independence of the judiciary, many administrative decisions of the office of the CJI are shrouded in secrecy. In a highly controversial and much-publicized move, five judges of the Supreme Court, including the current CJI, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had gone public with their grouse against the then CJI Justice Dipak Misra, alleging that he was being partial in allotting high profile cases to junior judges. Yet after he became the CJI, Justice Ranjan Gogoi discontinued the practice of publishing the decisions of the collegium, along with the reasons, on the Supreme Court website, something that Justice Misra had started. That was a blow to transparency. The reluctance of the judiciary to disclose its decisions can be seen from this reversal.

Although it will be wrong to expect the moon from the verdict, it is a step in the right direction. There must be more transparency in the administrative decisions of the apex court. The case was remarkable for the fact that the administrative side of the judiciary was a litigant before the judicial side and the latter decided against itself. It is certain that greater judicial accountability will ensue after this verdict as the insulation the apex court had used citing independence of the judiciary will now come to an end, to a large extent.