In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public authority under the purview of Right to Information Act (RTI).
“Transparency does not undermine judicial independence,” the top court observed while upholding the Delhi High Court’s 2010 judgement that the office of Chief Justice comes under the purview of Right to Information Act (RTI).
A five-judge constitution bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna pronounced the verdict.
“Transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand, and the Chief Justice office comes under the RTI regime,” the apex court said.
“Transparency only strengthens judicial independence,” Justice Khanna observed.
“The Right to Information and Right to Privacy are two sides of the same coin. None can take precedence over the other,” the court said in a majority judgement.
With this judgement, the apex court has junked the appeal filed by top court Secretary-General challenging the Delhi High Court order in holding office of the Chief Justice amenable under the RTI.
However, the judgement of the apex court talked about conditional disclosure, on case to case basis. The top court also passed observation on right to privacy and ruled that proactive disclosure by judges would further the judiciary’s independence.
In 2010, the Delhi High Court had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI Act, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.
The high court had dismissed the Supreme Court’s argument at the time, that bringing the top judge’s office within the RTI Act would “hamper” judicial independence.