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sidmis

Judges’ wealth: Info body seeks opinions

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Atul Patankar

As reported at dnaindia.com on January 14, 2010

 

SC should not file appeal on the RTI order: Justice Rama Jois

 

 

Bangalore.: The Supreme Court should restrain from filing an appeal against the Delhi High Court judgment that the office of the chief justice of India came within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court M Rama Jois, said today.

 

"It would be better the Supreme Court restrains itself from filing an appeal against the judgement of the Delhi High Court to itself", Jois, a Rajya Sabha member and former governor of Jharkhand and Bihar, said in a statement here.

 

 

He said though the Delhi High Court's full bench judgement rejecting the contention of the apex court that the CJI office was beyond the ambit of RTI Act, was "undoubtedly the proof of independence of judiciary, the fact that such an occasion arose for the high court is unfortunate".

 

 

"In my humble opinion, any appeal by the Supreme Court to itself against the judgement of Delhi High Court, would be incongruous.....common man gets an impression that appeal against the order of High Court is being filed before the respondent himself and by filing an appeal Supreme Court would be exposing itself to criticism that it is no better than an ordinary litigant", he said.

 

 

In order to ensure that the principle laid down in the high court judgment may not be extended to other matters to which doctrine of privilege extends, it would be appropriate for Central government to make a clarificatory statement to the RTI Act or to make a reference regarding scope and ambit of RTI Act by the president to Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution, Justice Jois said.

 

 

In the path-breaking judgement, a three judge Bench of the high court headed by chief justice AP Shah had held that the office of the CJI comes under the ambit of the RTI Act. The apex court has decided to appeal against the judgment.

 

CJI KG Balakrishnan yesterday said a full Court of the apex court would consider the implication of the high court verdict

 

Source: SC should not file appeal on the RTI order: Justice Rama Jois - dnaindia.com

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Atul Patankar

An article by Ad. Rajeev Fhavan at indianexpress.com on Jan 14, 2010

 

Supreme but fallible

 

Justice A.P. Shah’s judgment in the Delhi high court on the applicability of the Right to Information (RTI) Act is as fine as any bench of the Supreme Court could deliver. This is not surprising because Justice Shah is one of the best judges in India today. What was at issue was the right to know information about “assets” officially reposed with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) pursuant to a resolution of the Supreme Court on May 7, 1997 and the chief justices conference of December 1999. If the Supreme Court needed to bereminded of the obvious, Justice Shah declared that these resolutions were binding on the judges. Not to accept their binding nature would have made a mockery of the solemnity of the resolution process.

 

The thought that the Supreme Court and high courts are not bound by their own promise can only undermine confidence in the judiciary as an institution. Information about assets was to be placed with the CJI not in his personal capacity but in the institution of the CJI. Many CJIs have come and gone since the resolution was passed. None of them claimed the information was personal.

 

The Delhi high court took both a wide-angled constitutional view of the issue as well as a narrow view flowing from the RTI Act. The wide-angled constitutional view was that from 1973 the Supreme Court itself has recognised a right to know as part of free speech, election law and, indeed, in the judicial appointment case of 1982. It was on this basis that in 2002 the Supreme Court gave to the people the right to know about an MP or MLA’s full background, including financial assets. How come judges were exempt from the very right to know under which parliamentarians had to make a full disclosure to the people? The right to know is a fundamental right following the free speech — Article 19(1)(a) — and life and liberty provision — Article 21 — and international conventions. The significance of this was insightfully acute in two ways. In the first place, even if there was no RTI Act, a citizen or subject could claim to know about things like the financial assets of those who rule us, including the judiciary. Second, that in interpreting the RTI Act a bold and expansive rather than a narrow interpretation would have to be given — even if it affected the judges who could not interpret themselves above the law.

 

 

As far as the RTI Act is concerned, it surely applies to all “public authorities” established or constituted under the Constitution — Section 2(h). Indeed, recognising this, the Supreme Court had appointed an Information Officer — Section 2©. The right to information included all information right down to notes and diskettes “held under the control of any public authority” — Section 2(j). The attorney general’s view that this information had to be held under some law is fallacious. Ninety nine per cent of information held by most authorities is not retained under a “law” but executive authority. The terms of the act are clear. Such an approach does a disservice to Parliament’s clear intentions.

 

 

All this being settled, the next question was whether the Supreme Court could hide behind any of the ten exemptions provided by the act (Section 8). The Supreme Court’s counsel concentrated on the fiduciary relationship clause — Section 8(1)(e) — and the personal information or “privacy” clause — Section 8(1)(j). Significantly the RTI Act overrode all legislations (Section 22). The “fiduciary clause” was really not relevant. Every law student knows that “fiduciary” relations have a special meaning relating to the administration of trusts including corporate management. To expand this further would swallow the act. This is equally true of the idea of “confidentiality”. No authority can get out of the RTI Act simply by marking information “confidential”. If so, the RTI Act would be ruined. The “privacy” exemption relates to personal information which has no relation to “public activity or interest”. Tax returns, medical information, private relations would all be protected, subject to the public interest. Once the Supreme Court (for itself and MPs) had declared that information about financial assets related to public duty and accountability, this did not invade privacy. Most judges inIndia accept this, why should the Supreme Court argue otherwise as a litigant?

 

 

The Delhi high court rightly emphasised that disclosures about financial assets are part of judicial accountability including norms of transparency. Ironically, when the Supreme Court judges in 2009 decided in favour of disclosure, they cautiously added possible restraints — not yet elaborated. Taking a balanced view, the high court held that a judge’s notes and draft judgments not placed on record could not be disclosed. The efficient functioning of judiciary was protected but accepted international standards of information accountability were to be adhered to.

 

 

If at the attorney general’s behest the secretary general of the Supreme Court was before the court, the latter cannot but have been instructed by the chief justice. Having placed itself before the high court, the Supreme Court should not exercise its right to appeal, so that it sits in judgment over itself. The chief justice has declared that the full court will decide whether to appeal. If that happens, no judge would be entitled to hear the case as they would be both litigant and judge.

 

 

The RTI Act is clear. If the Supreme Court wants the act changed, this has to be done by Parliament not by one-sided judicial law-making. Until such a law is made (and it should not be) the Supreme Court should not allow itself to twist the law in its favour. The attorney general wants to appeal. Is this his view or that of his client, the Supreme Court, and perforce, the CJI? Forbearance is an option.

 

 

 

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/567183/

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Atul Patankar

As reported at indianexpress.com on Jan 15, 2010

 

New Delhi : The Supreme Court should have the last word on “the substantial questions of law and general importance” in bringing apex court judges under the RTI Act, Attorney General of India G E Vahanvati said on Thursday. The second day after a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court declared that RTI was applicable to the Supreme Court, Vahanvati, who was also the apex court’s lawyer in the case, told reporters that he was in favour of the Supreme Court taking the case to itself in appeal.

“Various people have publicly expressed their views that no further appeal should be filed challenging the high court judgment. In fact some have even alleged that I, in my capacity as Attorney General, am keen that an appeal be filed,” he said in a written statement.

He said that the Supreme Court had not taken it upon itself to appeal, but the Delhi High Court had itself given the apex court permission to appeal, considering “the substantial questions of law and general importance” at play if apex judiciary comes under RTI jurisdiction.

However, he added that a Full Court of the Supreme Court would take the final call on whether to appeal or not.

Asked if the Supreme Court can sit in appeal over an issue concerning its own interests, the AG said the apex court had authority to define every law in the country.

Vahanvati also noted that a Supreme Court decision on the issue would give it a ring of finality. “I have been a law officer for 11 years, first as the Advocate General of Maharashtra for five years, and thereafter as Solicitor General of India for five years. I am fully aware of the sensitive and delicate nature of the issues that the judiciary needs to address, both in the matter of appointment of judges as well as in discharge of various functions, obligations and responsibilities,” he said.

On his own convictions about taking up the case for the Supreme Court, the country’s topmost government lawyer said: “I have taken up this case on behalf of the Supreme Court not just as a matter of legal duty, but on the basis of a firm conviction that the independence of judiciary cannot be compromised by exposing every aspect of the work of the courts to public scrutiny.”

“It is time high constitutional offices like the CJI were given protection by Parliament,” he said.

Vahanvati said he “strongly felt” that certain degree of discretion and confidence should be maintained to encourage frank opinions among judges in “sensitive” matters, and expressed anguish about the perception that the CJI might have something to “hide”.

The topmost law officer also voiced his concern at the comments made by judicial officers on the functioning of the judiciary. “Nothing should be said which derogates the respect for the institution,” Vahanvati said.

 

 

 

Source: Attorney Gen says SC must appeal given the stakes

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colnrkurup

What is sensitive issues beond what is given in Section 8 of RTI Act.?

 

 

It is high time for WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA to ponder on following statement of our Hon'ble Attorney General GE Vahanvati:

 

1. " You must accept that there are various constitutional obligations where strict confidentiality is required.In such matters,it is pointless to proceed on public perception, and the collegium will be justified in its wisdom not to make reasons public"

 

2. " Not only the judiciary but also the offices of the President and the Prime Minister deal with various sensitive isues day in and day out, and there was a constitutional mandate and fiduciary princile that these must be kept confidential."

 

It is not possible to assume that the Architects of the Right to Information 2005 were not aware of the aspects brought out by our Attorney General. . The care and considerations given to these issues are too conspicuous in the meticuleous provisions in Section 8 of the RTI Act that lay down the type of informations if divulged might affect the constitutional obligations and fiduciary principles of the parties concerned.

 

WE THE PPEOPLE OF INDIA are keen to know as to what are the sensitive issues or consitutional madate and fiduciary principle warrant keeping confidential any information other than what is exempted in Section 8 of the RTI Act ? Will the Hon'ble Justice be kind enough to give at least one example.? What he meant might be the Political considerations, WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA insist that not only such informations should be divulged but also the reasons for such a decision should be fully justified and explained..

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karira

colnrkurup,

 

As you said there are enough exemptions available in Sec 8 of the RTI Act under which various type of information can be denied.

To me this seems to be just a case of saying "I am different from others" just like those people who like to drive around in cars with red lights or blue lights on the roof.

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rajub

To me this seems to be just a case of saying "I am different from others" just like those people who like to drive around in cars with red lights or blue lights on the roof.

 

There was a famous saying, "All people are equal but some are more equal".

 

Who used to say it???? No, no, I do not want to make any political comment.:p;)

 

Seriously speaking, If the learned law officer is really convinced about his convictions he should prevail upon the parliament to amend the law.

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karira
If the appeal is made, the supreme court will be hearing a case in which it itself is the affected party!

 

And if even that decision goes against CJI stand, the parlaiment can be always depended upon to change the law 'in its own wisdom'!

 

Remember Shah bano?

 

Well, what Atul said seems to be the game plan :

 

As reported by Nagendar Sharma in hindustantimes.com on 18 January 2010:

Not opposed to RTI, says Chief Justice of India- Hindustan Times

 

Not opposed to RTI, says Chief Justice of India

 

 

The Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, on Sunday said he was not opposed to the Right to Information (RTI) Act and did not want any exemptions from it. Also, the Supreme Court had not yet decided if it should challenge the Delhi High Court judgment on the issue.

 

In an interview to HT, Justice Balakrishnan said the judges were doing a fine job and he didn’t agree with the perception that corruption in the judiciary is on the rise.

 

“We don’t want exemption from the RTI Act. A lot of misinformation is being spread about what I’ve said and not said. We only have a limited problem about a particular kind of information sought from my office,” he said. “The problem is that if I divulge information containing opinions about judges’ appointments, it’ll affect the judiciary’s independence.”

 

On last week’s high court ruling, which put his office under RTI, the CJI said: “We haven’t taken a decision on whether to appeal against the judgment. The full court meeting will not decide. We have many options.”

 

He hinted the matter could be referred to Parliament to “solve the problem. We are not interested in a stay on proceedings or anything like that”.

 

Asked about the options, Balakrishnan said: “The collegium (panel of top five SC judges) can decide, so can I. The issue is not within our control, it is for Parliament to do it.”

 

On rising cases of corruption in the judiciary, the CJI said: “Look at the number of judges in the country, we have a vast institution. Corruption in judiciary is very less and everybody will have to accept this fact.”

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colnrkurup

The CJI said: “We haven’t taken a decision on whether to appeal against the judgment. ”

 

If the socalled "WE" prefer an appeal after "WE" - the CJI and Party decide the case, it will defenitely come under " Nemo index in causa " (ie.,No body shall be a judge in his own cause) It become a case to decide whether the contention of Justice Balakrishnan is correct or wrong. Naturally it will be unfair to claim that Justice Balakrishnan has no interest in this case as a person who has made a claimin his personal capacity..

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sidmis

SC challenges HC verdict bringing CJI in RTI ambit

As reported by STAFF WRITER PTI

 

New Delhi, Jan 23 (PTI) The Supreme Court is believed to have filed an appeal before itself challenging the judgement of the Delhi High Court holding that the office of the Chief Justice of India came under the ambit of the RTI Act.

 

Highly placed sources today said that the appeal against the January 12 verdict has been filed after there was unanimity among the judges of the apex court on challenging the verdict.

 

Sources said CJI K G Balakrishnan had consultation with other apex court judges on the issue and the grounds taken by it in the appeal are identitical to the stand taken in the High Court that disclosure of information held by the CJI would hamper independence of judiciary.

 

They said Attorney General would argue the matter on behalf of the apex court registry when it is expected to be listed for hearing shortly.

fullstory

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sidmis

No appeal yet against high court ruling on CJI’s office’

as reported in Taragana.Com (By IANS January 23rd, 2010)

 

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court registry Saturday said that it was yet to file an appeal challenging the Delhi High Court’s Jan 12 ruling declaring the office of the chief justice of India within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

 

 

Asked about news reports claiming that the apex court has already challenged before itself the high court’s ruling, apex court Secretary General M.P. Bhadran told IANS: “I do not from where do they got all this wrong information.”

 

“I’m the party in the case (the person entitled to challenge this judgement on behalf of the CJI’s office), and I’m yet to file any appeal,” he said.

 

“We are not even in any hurry as the Delhi High Court has given us 60 days to challenge its ruling,” said Bhadran, adding: “We have not even decided whether to challenge it at all.”

 

“No full court meeting (of all the apex court judges) has taken place to decide the issue,” he said

 

Supreme Court Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had told reporters earlier that the issue of whether or not to appeal agaist the high court ruling would be decided by a full bench of the apex court.

 

Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati too expressed surprise at the report by a news agency that the apex court has already filed an appeal before itself against the high court’s ruling.

 

“The Supreme Court is yet to communicate its decision to me on the question of filing an appeal on the issue,” he said.

 

“So where is the question of filing the appeal?” the country’s top law officer asked.

 

‘No appeal yet against high court ruling on CJI’s office’

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sidmis

Keep confidential info with CJI outside RTI ambit: former CJI

As reported by Business Standard Press Trust of India / Bangalore January 25, 2010, 16:45 IST

 

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice Rajendra Babu today said certain areas, such as confidential and sensitive information gathered by the CJI on the appointment of judges, should be kept outside the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

Justice Babu said as a public authority, the CJI discharges several functions including selection of judges after gathering information from various sources. "When he gets all those information, can he disclose all the information (under RTI)?," he asked.

 

He recalled an incident during his tenure when he had asked a SC judge whether to appoint a particular person as a judge. "You know what he told me? If you ask me in writing, I will say 'yes' and if you ask me orally, I will say 'no'."

 

"How do you deal with it? In a situation like that, if I am going to reveal it to the public, will anybody express himself (when one sought opinion on selection) fully? Or with what confidence can they express?"

 

"I am of the view that there are certain areas... It should not be made available to the general public. It's not necessary," Justice Babu, a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said.

 

He said information such as institutional decisions by CJI, taken after gathering inputs at different levels, should be kept out of the RTI purview, adding such revelation amounts to "throwing them to the wolves".

 

"Thereafter you will attack them (those who gave such information), condemn them. Nobody will express freely and frankly. This is one difficulty we have," Justice Babu said.

 

The Delhi High Court recently held the office of the CJI is a public authority that comes within the ambit of the RTI and it is bound to provide information about the declaration of asset details by Supreme Court judges.

 

Justice Babu said the process of discussions, dealing with "files" and gathering of information and things of such nature should not come under RTI purview.

 

"We think of the independence of judiciary. If you bring them under the control of some other authority, how will the independence of judiciary be maintained?"

 

Justice Babu, however, saw nothing wrong in public scrutiny of the judiciary. "Public scrutiny... It's good. Let them (the judges) be under scrutiny. But scrutiny by itself will not affect the independence of judges," he said.

 

He said what's important is how a judge conducted himself in court.

"Better if there is peer control; better if there is professional control. People do that way....Rather than somebody (scrutinising Judges) who does not have knowledge about it and they will go far beyond a point."

 

"I (a Judge) must command the respect of my colleagues; I must command the respect of my profession. I must be a good Judge; need not be a popular Judge," he said.

 

Keep confidential info with CJI outside RTI ambit: former CJI

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colnrkurup

" Former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice Rajendra Babu today said certain areas, such as confidential and sensitive information gathered by the CJI on the appointment of judges, should be kept outside the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act."

 

It is high time for WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA to get out of this phylosophy. WE THE POEPLE OF INDIA does not want a section of its society viz., judiciary to follow a different set of Rules other than what is given in the Constitution of India. The dictum that "I AM NOT BOUND BY THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA" is just not acceptable to us. Section 8 of the RTI Act fully cover any information that need not be disclosed. We want every bit of information not falling under Section 8 to be disclosed to its cityzen. It is a pity that We have been suffering judges with above mental outloook who is scared to give truths in writting.

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taurus

There is substance in the view expressed by theformer Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice Rajendra Babu that information such as institutional decisions by CJI, taken after gathering inputs at different levels, should be kept out of the RTI purview, adding such revelation amounts to "throwing them to the wolves". But no new provisions are required for doing so. Section 8 (1) (j) and sec 11 of the Act are enough to provide such protection. These sections provide enough safeguard in this regard.

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sidmis

Moily hints at changes in RTI Act on judges row

 

as reported by STAFF WRITER 16:53 HRS IST PTI

 

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court favouring amendments in the RTI Act to provide insulation from disclosure of information pertaining to appointment of judges and decisions of the collegium, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily today indicated changes in the Act.

 

He however, clarified that the proposed changes were "independent" of the Delhi High Court judgement in this regard and the matter would be looked into by the Department of Personnel and Training which deals with the implementation of the Act.

 

In a landmark verdict against the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court on January 12 held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, saying judicial independence is not a judge's privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.

 

"There is some proposal being contemplated. It is in comparision to other judiciaries in the world.

 

fullstory

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sidmis

RTI won’t change for judges

as reported by Satya Prakash and Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, February 09, 2010

 

Faced with an aggressive opposition, the UPA government on Monday decided to drop its proposal to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) out of its ambit.

 

“We are not contemplating any such amendment,” said Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, contradicting his earlier statement that the government was mulling changes in the transparency law.

On January 31, the minister had said: “A proposal is being contemplated.

 

It is in comparison to other judiciaries in the world. But it has nothing to do with the Delhi High Court judgment. It is independent of it.”

Moily’s volte-face followed the BJP-led NDA and the Left parties’ threat to veto the government’s move to make changes in the RTI Act, reportedly sought by CJI K.G. Balakrishnan.

 

The government needs some support from the opposition to make an amendment since it does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

“Only when such matters are placed in the public domain will the collegium be forced to record cogent reasons for appointment. It would act as an effective deterrent against wrongful appointments,” said Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha.

 

RTI won?t change for judges- Hindustan Times

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taurus

That is some relief for the ardent believers in the RTI.

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Atul Patankar

As posted by aburman at polityinindia.wordpress.com on 22 January, 2010

 

A brief glance at the assets of Supreme Court judges on-Supreme Court of India - Judges Assets highlights two important points:

 

1. There is no mention of the value of the assets of judges on a specific date. Information concerning assets is only useful if we are able to keep track of the increase/decrease in personal incomes over a period of time.

 

2. Since the information put up on the website is voluntary, some of the judges have declared the assets owned by their spouses, while the others have not. This gives rise to a larger question whether the income of the spouse should also be up in the first place.

 

Also, costs of filing RTIs in High Courts are very very high compared to other public institutions. It costs Rs. 500 to file an RTI application in the Allahabad High Court!! What use is the right to information when High Courts, the guardians of the rule of law, try to dilute the effect of the law on themselves?

 

Source: Courts, Judges and RTI India as an evolving polity

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Atul Patankar

As reported at hindustantimes.com on March 05, 2010

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi do not seem to agree on whether the office of the chief justice of India should be kept within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

Singh is understood to have informed Sonia that it was necessary to amend the existing law, brought by the UPA government during its first term, to “address the concerns of the judiciary.”

 

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had written to Singh in November 2009, seeking exemption from the RTI law in matters related to appointment of judges and other administrative decisions, sources said. Once they got wind of the letter, many NGOs and activists approached Sonia to oppose any move to dilute the RTI Act.

 

Sonia is believed to have written to the Prime Minister about two months back, opposing any changes in the act, and emphasizing the need to properly implement it.

 

Singh, however, is in favour of streamlining the Act, but only after consulting all stakeholders. He is understood to have written to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which implements the act, to assess whether any changes are possible.

 

One of the reasons for the exercise could be the approaching deadline for the Supreme Court to challenge the January 12 judgment of the Delhi High Court, which put the CJI’s office under the RTI Act.

 

The top court has roughly a week left to challenge the HC verdict before itself, a move which is likely to draw criticism from activists. It was given 60 days time to appeal against the judgment.

 

Source: Exempt Chief Justice from RTI, says PM; Sonia unwilling- Hindustan Times

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Atul Patankar

As reported at economictimes.indiatimes.com on 6 Mar 2010

 

NEW DELHI: The Manmohan Singh government seems to be disinclined to get into a tussle with the higher judiciary. A proposal to exempt the office

of the Chief Justice of India from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act is under the government’s consideration.

 

With the prime minister stepping in to back amendments to the Act, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and law ministry are likely to be on their toes to explore the possibilities of making the changes.

 

However, with BJP and Left parties strongly opposed to any dilution of the Act, the government may run short of numbers for passage of the amendments in the Rajya Sabha. “Why should the Chief Justice of India be excluded? What is the justification in it?” asked CPI MP D Raja on Friday.

 

Mr Manmohan Singh has reportedly backed changes in the RTI Act “to address the concerns of the judiciary.” He said that keeping the CJI office out of its purview will secure confidential information related to the appointment of judges and higher administrative decisions from public scanner.

 

CJI K G Balakrishnan had written to the prime minister seeking exemption from the RTI Act in certain matters. However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is understood to be averse to changes in the Act, which was one of the UPA’s key legislation.

 

The Delhi high court in January had upheld its single bench order that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the purview of the RTI Act and details of judges assets should be revealed under that. The Supreme Court now has around a week to challenge the HC judgement. The Delhi high court had given petitioners a 60-day deadline to challenge the ruling.

 

Besides the proposal to keep CJI out of the Act’s purview, the amendments proposed are disallowing discussions on policy decisions to be made public and permitting frivolous queries.

 

Source: Move afoot to exempt CJI from RTI Act- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Maneesh Chhibber at on Mar 07, 2010

 

CJI under RTI: SC ready with appeal to itself

New Delhi : The Supreme Court is set to file an appeal to itself against the January 12 judgment of the Delhi High Court, which said that the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) falls within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Officials in the apex court Registry declined to confirm or deny the development, but sources within the judiciary told The Sunday Express that the decision to appeal was taken by the CJI just before the Holi break. The appeal is likely to be filed early next week. The window to appeal closes March 12.

 

Sources said the appeal, drafted by Supreme Court lawyer Devdutt Kamat, has already been cleared by the CJI and the Supreme Court Registry. It is learnt that the CJI discussed the issue with some senior judges. Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati will be asked to argue the SC case.

 

Sources said that among other things, the appeal seeks an immediate stay on the judgment of the Delhi HC, and asks the apex court to set it aside on the ground that the HC erred in holding that correspondence between the CJI and other members of the higher judiciary could be sought under the RTI Act.

 

The appeal also says that the information held by the CJI pertaining to the details of assets of judges and their kin was under a fiduciary relationship and hence exempt from being made public under the RTI Act.

 

In its judgment, a three-member HC Bench comprising the then Chief Justice A P Shah and Justices Vikramjeet Sen and S Muralidhar, while dismissing the contention of the SC Registry that bringing the office of the CJI under the purview of the RTI Act would hamper judicial independence, had said, “Judicial independence is not a privilege to a judge but a responsibility.”

 

In doing so, the Bench upheld the September 2 verdict of a single judge of the HC. However, the CJI has been repeatedly asserting that judges can’t be put under too much public scrutiny as it would hamper their functioning and independence.

 

Incidentally, on March 8, the SC is also scheduled to resume hearing of another appeal filed by the SC Registry against a decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC), through which the CIC had directed the SC to provide to the applicant, RTI activist Subhash C Agarwal, details of appointment of three judges to the Supreme Court.

 

On November 3 last year, SC judges voluntarily listed details of their assets along with those of their kin on the SC website.

 

The proposed Judges Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, which is likely to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing session, says that declaration of assets made by judges would be treated as a legal document.

 

Source: CJI under RTI: SC ready with appeal to itself

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Atul Patankar

As reported at ptinews.com on 07 March 2010

 

New Delhi, Mar 7 (PTI) The Supreme Court would file an appeal before itself in the next few days challenging the judgement of Delhi High Court holding that the office of the Chief Justice of India came under the ambit of the RTI Act.

 

The appeal, though drafted more than a month ago, could not be brought on record before the registry due to a technical glitch but the same would be formalised after the court reopens on Monday after a week-long Holi recess, official sources told PTI.

 

The sources said that CJI K G Balakrishnan had consultations with other apex court judges on the issue and the grounds taken by it in the appeal are identical to the stand taken in the High Court that disclosure of information held by the CJI would hamper independence of judiciary.

 

Source: fullstory

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Atul Patankar

As reported at indianexpress.com on Mar 08, 2010

 

Reports suggest that the Supreme Court is preparing to appeal the January 12 decision of the Delhi high court placing the office of the Chief Justice of India within the ambit of the Right to Information Act. In the aftermath of the Delhi HC decision — itself a three-judge affirmation of a single-judge HC order — legal experts such as former Chief Justice J.S. Verma had urged the SC to not appeal. For the apex court to sit in judgment over its own fate would make for an unseemly spectacle. Reports indicate that the SC thinks otherwise; an appeal is likely to be filed.

The immediate consequence of the Delhi HC judgment was on judicial assets. In 1997, a “restatement of values on judicial life”, passed by a full court of the SC, stated that judges would declare their assets to the chief (information that would be held in the CJI’s office). By holding that this 1997 declaration was mandatory and that the CJI’s office was under the RTI Act, the Delhi HC ensures that the public have a right to know what their judges own. (Last November, SC judges made their asset details public, but insist it is voluntary.) The Delhi HC judgment also makes a larger point: on judicial accountability and the principle that no one is above the law. That a lower court could find against the world’s most powerful was a healthy sign of intra-judicial independence.

 

An appeal by the SC will have implications for that larger point. On the narrow question of judicial assets, the executive seems to have finally grasped the ball. The UPA government is planning to introduce the Judges (Standards and Accountability) Bill, which, reports suggest, will give statutory teeth to the 1997 Supreme Court resolution, with or without a court judgment to back it up. Certainly, the Delhi HC judgment goes beyond just the disclosure of judges’ assets. But at a time when a breeze of greater transparency is blowing through the executive and the legislature too — a breeze that’s been given velocity by the courts — the higher judiciary would have to make a considerably stronger case for being kept apart.

 

Source: Turn the page

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