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RTI Act does not apply to my office: CJI

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As reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 6 May 2008:

I am a public servant: CJI-India-The Times of India


I am a public servant: CJI


NEW DELHI: "I am a public servant," declared Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishanan settling the dust that had arisen over whether or not judges of the Supreme Court and high courts were public servants or not.


His remarks at the conclusion of the annual conference of Chief Justices of the high courts and the chief ministers had opened a big debate over the status of the judges of the higher and superior judiciary.


The clarification from the CJI came on the day when the judiciary took the historic first step to allow TV cameras to videograph the “people's court” proceedings held inside the SC's court rooms, which are always out of bound for cameras.


Speaking to The Times of India, Justice Balakrishnan laughed away the question whether judges of the SC and the HCs were public servants or not.


“How can any judge argue that he is not a public servant?” he counter questioned. It is a well settled position of law, as laid down in the five-judge constitution bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the Veeraswamy case, that judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court were public servants, he said.

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RTI could extend to judges: CJI

As reported by NDTV CorrespondentSaturday, May 10, 2008 (New Delhi)



The Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan had created a storm by stating that the judges are constitutional authorities and above the Right to Information Act but on Saturday he took a U-turn.


He told NDTV that judges are public servants and could come under the RTI, it's only a question of interpretation.





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RTI could extend to judges: CJI

AS Reported By Neha Khanna in NDTV, Saturday, May 10, 2008 (New Delhi)


In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has said that judges are public servants and could come under the Right to Information Act (RTI), adding that it was only a question of interpretation.


Earlier, Justice Balakrishnan said that judges are constitutional authorities and above the purview of the RTI, which triggered a nationwide debate.


On being asked about his recent remarks that judges do not come within the purview of RTI act, Justice Balakrishnan said that whatever he said was as per the definition of the public authority in the RTI Act.


''The chief justices or the judges may not come, it is a question of interpretation. If somebody says it comes, it is all right. But judges are public servants, I have absolutely no doubt whether judges are public servants,'' he said.


''Judges are public servants. But as public authority, it is the institution, body or any organization, that is the definition. I am happy that this Lok Adalat is being organised by the Delhi High Court,'' he added.


Justice Balakrishnan said that the 1991 ruling of the Supreme Court that describes judges as public servants and a recent parliamentary panel's statement that the judges do come in the purview of the RTI are debatable issues.


''The public servant decision is correct and we don't dispute that,'' he said.


Justice Balakrishnan was in Delhi High court inaugurating a lok adalat.

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WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA defenitely deserve a more specific answer from our Hon'ble CJI

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Right to Info Act covers judiciary too: Habibullah

As reported by Divyamanu Chaudhry / CNN-IBN Fri, May 16, 2008


FOR THEIR INFORMATION: Habibullah says Right to Information doesn't

exempt judiciary.


New Delhi: The Right to Information Act (RTI) is applicable to the

judiciary, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has said.


Habibullah's statement is important, as the Chief Justice of India, K

G Balakrishnan, recently said that it was "debatable" whether the

judiciary came under the purview of the RTI Act. Before that

Balakrishnan had said that constitutional authorities did not come

under the purview of the Act.


Habibullah, in an interview to CNN-IBN, disagrees with that view. "It

(RTI) Act) is of course applicable to the judiciary, the legislature

and the executive. It applies to all organs of the Government and all

constitutional bodies," he said.


Habibullah's statement comes before a full bench of the Central

Information Commission studies whether the judiciary comes under the

Act's purview.


He clarified that he doesn't want to lock horns with the judiciary on

every issue but differences cannot be avoided. "In certain finer

points there will be differences and they need to be sorted out in the

manner this Act evolves," he said.


Habibullah want to avoid confrontation but it is apparent from his

statement he is reluctant to buy easy peace with the judiciary. He is

convinced that no institution should be outside the purview of the RTI

Act, so the judiciary will have to convince him why an exception needs

to for it.


Right to Info Act covers judiciary too: Habibullah

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We are not interested in his bargaining power or judiciary's responses. As per the RTI Act it is complementary to the Freedom of expression aspect of our Constiotution. The porovisions of RTI Acti is equally applicable to everyone who is governmened by the Constitutions of India. Let us wait and watch the onegoing cases were the CIC is expected to give his judgment.

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There are two different aspects to this issue.


First aspect is about interpretation of the present Law--the RTI ACT. With due respects, the opinion of the Hon'ble CJI is not correct; especially in view of Section-2(h)(a) of the RTI ACT, which clearly and unambiguously covers all authorities and bodies established or constituted under the Constitution of India .


Second aspect is that, if the CJI or someone else feels that Supreme Court and the CJI should be exempted, then they should seek for

necessary amendment to the RTI ACT. What is your opinion, brothers and sisters.

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Why the RTI Act alone ? If one has a chance ask why not ask for HEAVEN ? Why can't they ask amendments to the IPC, CrPC and all Acts and Rules of India which are not making them confortable to act at free will and accord so that none of the inconvenient provisions of laws of India is made applicable to them. ?

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Don't be surprised. As per today's ToI, CJI wants to exceed norms. Summons Civic Body chief to know if his bungalow area can be expanded. As per news, his bungalow area is already beyond norms.

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Are you that the CJI has SUMMONED the Civic Body ?

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Cannot find the original press report, but found the denial:


As reported by TNN in The Times of India, Hyderabad Edition on 17 May 2008:



‘There was no meeting between CJI and NDMC boss’


New Delhi: The secretary general of the Supreme Court, V K Jain, said on Friday that the reported meeting between Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and NDMC chairman Parimal Rai “neither took place nor was ever sought.’’ The spokesperson of NDMC has also denied the meeting on behalf of Parimal Rai. Both were reacting to a TOI story titled, “CJI seeks to break norms for office space at home,’’ which was based on a letter written by NDMC on April 10 expressing its inability to sanction CPWD’s plan for additional construction at CJI’s residence since it was contrary to rules.


The story also reported a meeting between the CJI and the NDMC chairman about which it had learnt from sources.

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Public Officers have their own jurisdiction and Authority bestowed on them by enactments by Parliament under the authority vested on them by our Constitution. The judiciary summon even the elected representative, Ministers etc by virtue of the powers entrusted. Similarly the Information Commisssion can summon any one falling under the perview of the RTI Act by virtue of the powers vested in them. Ultimately even the CJI has admitted that RTI Act is applicable to him. This means every provisions stipulated therein is applicable to him. This include attending to summons. There cannot be any doubt. Judicial Officers being under the RTI Act they have to abide by summons. It depends on how bold the Commissions are. The Commission should treat every cityzen at par while exercising its powers. If someone fail to abide by him the Commission should proceed as per the provisions of the Act. I doubt the spent energy type Commissions will have guts.

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Constitutional posts don't come under RTI Act: Centre to HC

Reported in the Hindu, India - 28 minutes ago


"President, Chief Justice and other constitutional functionaries are beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities under the Right to Information Act,".



Constitutional posts don't come under RTI Act: Centre to HC



New Delhi (PTI): The Centre has said constitutional functionaries do not come within the ambit of RTI Act and that Information Commission cannot direct the government to reveal information pertaining to their functioning.


"President, Chief Justice and other constitutional functionaries are beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities under the Right to Information Act," Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra contended before the Delhi High Court.


The Centre made the submission, while challenging the Central Information Commission's order directing it to place the file relating to transfer of High Court Judges before the Commission.


"These are constitutional functionaries and their functioning is not open for disclosure under the Right to Information Act," Malhotra said, while pleading to stay the order.


Justice Rekha Sharma, after hearing the contention of the Government, stayed the order and asked the information seeker who had approached the CIC to file her response by August 26 when the matter would be taken up for further hearing.


Shruti Singh Chauhan, a Delhi resident, had filed an RTI application seeking details from the government on the basis of which High Court judges are being transfered.


The Ministry of Law and Justice, however, declined his application saying that these informations cannot be revealed to the general public.



The Hindu News Update Service

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This incident has opened a serious issue. Was Shruthi Singh Chouhan aware that the fight is against the opinion of CJI ? Is she competent to deal with this case ? If cityzens who are not well equipped to fight the case get into such issues the judiciary or public authorities or government will make use of this opportunity to thjeir advantage. I do not know whether she is capable of employing a suitable Advocate or the issue will be taken over by competent RTI Activists. I think it is our duty to tell such RTI enthusiast to refrain from bitting more than what they can swallow.

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I am sure that Ms Shruti Singh Chauhan knows what she is doing. Besides the CIC, her name also comes up frequently in various orders of SIC's. Just search for her name on the CIC website and you will get many orders/decisions with her name as appellant. Here are just two examples:






From the newspaper report, it does not appear that she has gone to Court. It is the Central Government which has gone to Court against the order of CIC to place the file relating to transfer of High Court Judges, before it.


But the stand taken by the Government is surprising because earlier on 23 March 2007, the CIC had allowed disclosure (subject to severability under Sec 10) regarding the appointment of Justice Virender Jain as CJ of Punjab & Haryana High Court. Since the appellant has not come back to the CIC till now (no further reference available on CIC website), I presume that the information was disclosed. Please see:




There is no reference to the order referred to in the news report on the CIC website. So, one really does not know what is the crux of the matter.

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This is a very ticklish issue. In a democracy like ours all the three 'arms' namely the executive, the judiciary and the legislature have their own defined functions. Their functions should be exercised in a harmonious was as to ensure that there is no clash of interest over supremacy of authority. It is better to resolve such issues without compromising the authority of any one of this.

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The issue here is not about the balance of power between the three main organs of our constitution.


The main issue is whether the "foundation" of democracy. that is "We the People" have the right to seek information from constitutional offices under the RTI Act.

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You are very correct. It is time for our Hon'ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha to open his mind again. How can the so called Constitutional Offices assume that they are above the Constitution ? THE CONSTITUTION IS SUPREME. No one has any authority to absolve themselves from the enactment made under the Constitution.

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Comments from Sailesh Gandhi on Add. Solicitor General's Submission


I feel the apparently frivolous contention of the Add.Solicitor General in

the Delhi High Court and the stay obtained

may have serious implications on the Right to Information movement. To my knowledge there is no definition of "Constitutional functionaries"

and therefore could be taken to mean,- all autorities mentioned in the

Constitution. MPs, ministers and a host of others have been mentioned

in the Constitution and the claim for an untenable immunity from RTI appears to be without any basis in law. However, given the fact that in that case the judiciary will be acting as a judge in its own cause, the final

outcome seems preordained. It will be worthwhile for activists to voice

their strong disagreement on this condemnable attempt to subvert the RTI act.


I am giving below the NCPRI statement, and request all activists to spread

this widely and also voice their own disagreements strongly:

NCPRI Statement on the Central Government's attempt to reduce the

scope and coverage of the Right to Information Act.


An unnecessary controversy has been created by the contention of the

Additional Solicitor General claiming in the Delhi High court that the

Right to Information does not apply to what he calls "Constitutional

functionaries" . A non-existent legal immunity is being claimed for a

section of Public servants, and the applicability of the Right to

Information with regard to information regarding them or their

actions. It will be worthwhile to recall that Justice Mathew ruled-"In

a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the

public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few

secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public

act, everything that is done in a public way by their public

functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every

public transaction in all its bearing. Their right to know, which is

derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is

a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for

transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public



Thus claiming secrecy for the transactions of a few arbitrarily

chosen few Public servants would be feudal and not in consonance with

the preamble of the Right to Information Act. No information can be

kept secret from the sovereign Citizens of India, based on the

imagined superiority of some so called constitutional functionaries.

Since there is no definition or mention of the term 'Constitutional

funcionaries' as being exempt under the RTI act, he perhaps means all

those mentioned in the Constitution. It would then cover all

Ministers, Members of Parliament and many other functionaries

mentioned in the Constitution. This is completely erroneous and would

render the RTI act and all laws meaningless. Further we might point

out that all the authorities covered by the RTI act have been defined

as 'Public Authorities' under Section 2 (h) of the Act, which states,"


"(h) "public authority" means any authority or body or institution of

self- government established or constituted—

(a) by or under the Constitution;

(b) by any other law made by Parliament;


The so-called "constitutional functionaries" have been established or

constituted by or under the Constitution. And if they have not been

established or constituted by or under the Constitution, how do they

come to acquire their positions.


Some arguments have been raised about the whether a judge's

transfer can be challenged. This is not the same as seeking of

information about their transfers. Whether an action is illegal or not

is an independent matter, and must not be confused with providing

information about it. The National Campaign for People's Right to

Information, urges the Government to correct the erroneous contention

which it has filed in Court.



Shailesh Gandhi (Convenor), Aruna Roy, Jagdeep Chhokkar, Trilochan

Sastry, Maja Daruwala, Venkatesh Nayak, Nikhil Delhi on behalf of

NCPRI Working Committee.




All my emails are in Public domain.


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No right to know your judges: Govt


As reported by Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, August 22, 2008


The Government does not want people to know their judges. The Ministry

of Law and Justice has said the Right To Information Act does not

cover Supreme Court and High Court judges.


"Constitutional authorities like the President, Chief Justice of

India, Supreme Court judges, Chief Justices of High Courts and other

judges of the High Courts are outside the purview of the Right to

Information Act," the ministry has told Delhi High Court."


The Act itself doesn't exempt constitutional bodies. (See accompanying

box for those exempted).


The Delhi High Court is hearing a Law Ministry petition challenging

the Central Information Commission's order demanding from the ministry

access to files related to the transfer of High Court judges between



The ministry's stand on RTI for judges comes at a time when the

judiciary itself appears keen to become more accountable. Chief

justice K. G. Balakrishnan wrote recently to Chief Justices of all

High Courts asking them to make judges declare their assets.


When contacted, the Law Ministry refused to give reasons for its decision.


Its decision is in sharp contrast to the stand taken by the

Parliamentary committee on Law, Justice and Personnel in a report it

gave Parliament in May: "Except the judicial decision making, all

other activities of administration and persons included in the

judiciary are subject to RTI Act."



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Atul Patankar

As reported by CJI’’s office comes under purview of RTI Act, says CIC

Information Officer, Wajahat Habibullah, today said that the office of the Chief Justice of India does come under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Delivering a talk on “Working of Right to Information Act Issues and Challenges” at the Observer Research Foundation, a press release of the foundation quoted Habibullah as saying that the Central Information Commission would hear soon some petitions pending on the issue. The press release further quoted the CIC as saying that he had had discussions with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariat to improve flow of information regarding the functioning of Members of Parliament.

He said the purview of the RTI went beyond Central and State governments, encompassing any body which has received government funding. This includes institutions like SGPC, Distcoms, Stock Exchanges, aided schools, etc.

According to the press release, the CIC said there is a need to effect changes in the training of government officials where they are told not to impart with government information to public though they themselves are paid from the public money of tax payers.

The CIC described as “complete anachronism” the Official Secrets Act of 1923. He said the Commission has suggested to the government to repeal it, but no progress has been made in this regard.

Noting that in some cases even the PIOs (principal information officers) themselves were not aware of their roles, the CIC was quoted by the press release as saying that though there many issues to be tackled, he has no doubt that the RTI Act has become a powerful tool even for the weak and illiterate people to get information which otherwise would have been near to impossible to get.

“This is the Act people can use and will use it,” the CIC said, noting that the largest users in Delhi are slum dwellers and women.

He said now the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has also been brought under the RTI Act, which rural people are using.

The CIC said there is an urgent need to bring in uniformity and homogeneity of the fees under RTI Act to make it easier and affordable to all citizens. He also felt that the Commission should be empowered to take contempt action in case of poor compliance to improve compliance level.

He also admitted that the victimisation fear among some applicants is also a real problem which needs to be addressed.

The CIC welcomed the suggestion of the President of ORF Centre for Politics and Governance, Mr. Surendra Singh, that ORF would like to present the Commission its study on the various aspects connected with the RTI Act and how to make it more effective.

Surendra Singh, a former Cabinet Secretary, said though RTI has made lots of progress, there are still many issues which needed to be tackled. He listed coverage of the RTI Act, awareness among citizens, the userfriendliness, the cost factor, the impact of Official Secrets Act, fear of victimisation among applicants, etc as some of the issues impacting the effectiveness of the RTI Act. (ANI)

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Krishnadas Rajgopal at Indian Express on January 7 2008


CIC gives SC 10 days to disclose if judges have declared assets


New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that the Supreme Court and high courts are “public authorities” that come under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and asked the apex court to disclose within 10 days if its judges have ever declared their assets.


“The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court is directed to provide information as to whether declaration of assets, etc., has been filed by the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court or not within ten working days from the date of receipt of this decision notice,” a full bench of the CIC comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Information Commissioners M M Ansari and A N Tiwari said in a judgment late this evening.

The judgment followed the refusal by the Supreme Court to entertain a query on the declaration of assets by judges. S C Agrawal had applied to the apex court for a copy of a Full Court Resolution passed on May 7, 1997, prescribing “every judge to make a declaration of assets in form of real estate or investments held in their names or in the name of their spouses and any person dependent on them to the Chief Justice”. He had also asked if judges had complied with the Resolution, and whether any high court judge had ever declared their assets to their respective Chief Justices. The Supreme Court had parted with a copy of the Resolution, but stonewalled the other queries.


The CIC rejected the Supreme Court’s refusal, during the hearing of the case, to disclose information on the declaration of assets by judges on the ground that this information was filed by judges with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in a “voluntary and confidential manner”, and held by the latter in his “personal capacity” owing to the “fiduciary relationship” among members of the Bench.


The Commission explained that it was the responsibility of the CJI and Chief Justices of high courts to embrace and enforce transparency in their high offices in accordance with the “unique status and position” the RTI Act gave them.

“The Chief Justice of India... and the Chief Justices of High Courts are designated as ‘competent authority’ within the meaning of Section 2(e) of the RTI Act and Section 28 of the RTI Act empowers them to frame rules to carry out provisions of the Act,” the CIC said.

“This rule-making power,” it noted, “is explicitly given for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the RTI Act. The Act, therefore, empowers the Supreme Court and the other competent authorities under the Act and entrusts upon them an additional responsibility of ensuring that the RTI Act is implemented in letter and spirit.


“In view of this additional responsibility, the contention that provisions of RTI Act are not applicable in case of Supreme Court cannot be accepted.”

The Bench held that declaration of assets by judges cannot be classified as “personal information” of which the serving CJI was sole custodian in a personal capacity.

“The information is maintained in a confidential manner and like any other official information is available for perusal and inspection to every succeeding Chief Justice of India. It, therefore, cannot be categorised as “personal information” available with the Chief Justices in their personal capacity,” the Bench said.

The Supreme Court Registry had taken the line that the CJI’s office was a “separate” entity and not part of the “institution called the Supreme Court of India” to argue that the applicant in the case had knocked on the wrong door for information on declaration of assets by judges.


Source : CIC gives SC 10 days to disclose if judges have declared assets

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See the frontpage of The Times of India today, i.e. 07.01.2009 wherein it is reported that a three member bench headed by the CIC has ruled that the CJI comes under the purview of RTI. Now our democracy seems to be working. Otherwise our so called VVIPs are still in the feudal mindset / colonial hangover.

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