News: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Background: The verdict comes in the matter of a plea filed by Supreme Court Secretary-General challenging Delhi High Court’s 2010 order holding that the CJI’s office is a “public authority” and falls under the ambit of the RTI Act.
Key takeaways from SC Verdict:
- The Supreme Court of India and the office of the CJI are not two different public authorities. The SC would necessarily include the office of CJI and other judges in view of Article 124 of the Constitution (Establishment and Constitution of Supreme Court)
- Right to Information and Right to Privacy are two sides of the same coin. They have to be balanced while deciding to give out information from the office of the chief Justice.
- Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand, but transparency does not undermine judicial independence.
- Disclosure of any information sought will have to be balanced with the independence of judiciary, which itself is a matter of public interest.
- The Court has asked the information commissioner to apply test of proportionality while entertaining applications seeking information from CJI’s office, keeping in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.
Right to Information Act, 2005:
- RTI Act provides for timely disclosure of information by citizens from both central and State Public Authorities. It seeks to empower citizens and promote accountability and transparency.
- Under the Act, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning. This includes
- disclosure on their organization
- functions and structure
- powers and duties of its officers and employees and
- Financial information.
Note: Public authority” is defined in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. It states: “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted—
- by or under the Constitution;
- by any other law made by Parliament;
- by any other law made by state legislature
- by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.