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  1. PATNA: Independence of judiciary and quality of judges should be maintained despite "stress and strain", said President Pranab Mukherjee at the Patna high court's centenary celebrations on Saturday. The President, who was the chief guest of the function, said the elected public representatives would have strong desire for populist measures which might affect individual rights, but the judiciary has the duty to show red flag to any infringement on a citizen's fundamental rights. Read more at; Only a quality judge determines quality judgment: President Pranab Mukherjee - The Times of India
  2. Dear All, Please find below the web link to news item appearing in Indian Express about the appointment of three Information Commissioners. harinder dhingra Quote " The husband of a sitting high court judge who is hearing many cases against the Haryana government, the wife of Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda’s political advisor, and the CM’s advisor (health) — these are the three new state information commissioners selected by the state government on Wednesday. They are likely to be sworn in before Governor Jagannath Pahadia’s term ends on July 26. The decision was taken at a meeting of the statutory committee on Wednesday, chaired by Hooda and attended by Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal. The third member of the committee, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Om Prakash Chautala, did not attend the meeting. However, Chautala recorded his dissent in a note to Hooda. Many cases against the state government are pending in the court of Justice Daya Chaudhary, whose husband, Dr Amar Singh, a retired Excise and Taxation department officer, is among those selected for the post. These include the issue of multiple allotments of residential plots by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA). The others who have been picked are: Rekha, the wife of Hooda’s political advisor Professor Virender Singh, and Shiv Raman Gaur, the CM’s retired additional principal secretary who was recently re-employed as his advisor (health). In his dissent note, Chautala urged the CM to stop the appointments. “It will only result in wrongfully extending the benefits of political patronage to persons like Smt Rekha, Amar Singh and Shiv Raman Gaur, who otherwise are not eligible for appointment as the state information commissioners,” he said. “Such appointments should be of persons of eminence in the field of law, administration and management etc., as stipulated in the 2005 Right to Information enactment of the Parliament of India. Is it not correct, for example, that the lady… has no qualification other than being the spouse of your so-called political advisor, and earns her livelihood from the education department of Haryana?” Justifying the decision, Bhukkal said, “The screening committee scrutinises the applications of interested people who have applied for the post. The screening committee forwarded us the names and we gave our approval. There is nothing wrong in this.” On the decision to pick Amar Singh and Rekha, Bhukkal said, “Both must have applied for the post in their individual capacity. Many retired judges also want to be appointed state information commissioners. If a judge’s husband has been selected, there is nothing wrong.” Both Rekha and her husband did not respond to repeated phone calls and text messages. When contacted, Amar Singh refused to comment. Justice Daya Chaudhary was also not available for comment. The Haryana Information Commission has a chief information commissioner and seven information commissioners at present. According to the rules on selection of information commissioners, the candidates “should be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. The information commissioners should not be a Member of Parliament or Member of Legislature of any state or union territory, or hold any other office of profit,or connected with any political party, or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.” The information commissioners remain in office for a term of five years or till he/she attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same salary and allowances as that of the state chief secretary." UNQUOTE The news item can be viewed at following web-link also. Haryana’s new info commissioners: wife of Hooda’s aide, HC judge’s husband | The Indian Express
  3. NEWS ITEM APPEARING ON HINDUSTAN TIMES Former chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan has asked the income tax office in Kochi not to disclose details of his I-T returns — sought by an activist for the period when he was a Supreme Court judge and later CJI — under the RTI Act. Justice Balakrishnan, the NHRC chairman, has cited that the CJI’s office is beyond the purview of the RTI Act. A Kochi-based activist, T Balachandran, had filed an application with I-T office seeking details of Balakrishnan’s tax returns during 2005-10 after the media expose that his two sons-in-law, brother and nephew had allegedly amassed huge wealth during this period. The activist also sought details of the former CJI’s property. Soon after the RTI query, the I-T office forwarded the application to Balakrishnan as required by law to ask for his objections, if any. The former CJI — who had resisted all moves to bring Supreme Court judges under the ambit of the RTI Act — argued that such a disclosure would be an invasion of his privacy, that it served no public interest and that the I-T appellate authority could disclose it only if he was satisfied that it served the larger public interest. In the reply he cited Section 8 (j) of the RTI Act 2005, which states: “Personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest ... are completely exempted from the disclosure unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the appellate authority... is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure...” Balachandran had not stated in his plea how the disclosure of information would serve public interest. He said he would move an appeal in the appellate authority. LlINK TO NEWS ITEM : Balakrishnan wants his I-T info out of RTI loop - Hindustan Times QUESTION: CAN A JUDGE KEEP HIS INCOME TAX INFORMATION OUT OF RTI AMBIT, JUST BY CLAIMING EXEMPTION UNDER SECTION 8 (i) OF RTI ACT. WHEN JUDGE'S RELATIVE RELATIVES HAVE BEEN EXPOSED IN MEDIA HAVING AMMASED HUGE WEALTH, IS IT NOT UNDER THE LARGER PUBLIC INTEREST TO KNOW IF THE JUDGE WHOSE WORD IS GOD IN THE WORLD OF JUSTICE HAS A TAINTED BACKGROUND??? PRASHANT UIKEY
  4. Judges’ wealth: Info body seeks opinions As Reported By Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan New Delhi, July 04, 2008 In an attempt to settle the controversy surrounding the implementation of Right to Information Act in the judiciary, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed Supreme Court officials and the Department of Personnel and Training to present their views on the matter. The CIC, in separate notices to the court and department officials, has directed them to be present before its full bench hearing on July 11 with their replies on the controversial issue of whether the wealth details of judges should be made public or not. The commission directive follows an appeal filed by a Delhi resident, based on a series of recent reports by Hindustan Times, highlighting the refusal of Supreme Court and High Court judges to make public the details of their wealth under the RTI Act. In his appeal, Subhash Chandra Aggarwal has sought to know whether the Supreme Court implemented its own resolution making it mandatory for Supreme Court and High Court judges to submit their wealth details to respective chief justices regularly. The resolution, passed in a full court meeting attended by 22 judges in May 1997, chaired by then Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, stated: "Every judge of the Supreme Court and High Courts, should within a reasonable timeframe of appointment, provide details to the Chief Justice of all assets in the form of real estate or investment held by him, his/her spouse or anyone dependant on them". However, it is not known whether this resolution, which did not have a legal backing was ever implemented. Asked about the resolution, Justice Verma said, "It was implemented during my tenure and at that time names of even High Court judges were cleared by the collegium only on furnishing the details of assets. I cannot comment on what happened after I demitted office in 1998". The CIC has also issued a notice to the DoPT on a separate appeal filed by Aggarwal, in which he has sought to know whether the Chief Justice of India and High Court Chief Justices were covered under the RTI Act or not. The appeal is based on replied given by the Supreme Court and comments made by CJI KG Balakrishnan in April this year that being a constitutional functionary, his office did not come in the purview of the RTI Act. The CIC decision in the matter would finally settle the controversy surrounding the extent to which the Act could be implemented in the judiciary. Justice Balakrishnan’s statement claiming exemption from the RTI Act, was strongly countered by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law & Justice. Judges? wealth: Info body seeks opinions- Hindustan Times
  5. Can't act against retired judges: Govt as reported by Himanshi Dhawan 28 Oct 2008, Times of India NEW DELHI: At a time when the issue of judicial accountability is gaining ground, the government has admitted that it exercises no control over action against retired judges of the high courts and the SC. In a RTI query, the justice department has disclosed that it has no competence to take action against retired judges/chief justices of SC and HCs on allegations or charges levelled against them. However, the protection under the Constitution is not applicable in cases where SC or HC judge demits office instead of retiring. Appellant Subhash Chandra Agarwal had submitted an RTI query asking if the government has the Constitutional competence to take action against retired judges and if yes, then information relating to these inquiries. He had also asked for details of complaints against judges lodged with the CVC and the CBI. The query was rejected by the CPIO on flimsy grounds but was later admitted. CPIO K Gurtu said that the government did not have the competence to take action against retired judges/chief justices of SC and HCs. This was reiterated by appellate authority after Agarwal pointed out that CBI had taken action against former Delhi HC judge Shamit Mukherjee. In his reply, the appellant authority joint secretary Ramesh Abhishek has said that the Constitution provides that no judge of the SC or HC can be removed from office except by order of the President passed by an address of each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. The Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, lays down the procedure for presentation of an address and for probe and proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge. However, in Mukherjee's case, the judge had resigned from office and so the Constitutional provision was no longer applicable allowing the CBI to take action against him. Can't act against retired judges: Govt-India-The Times of India
  6. A federal court rejected an administration claim of executive privilege in deciding that Secret Service records of White House visits must be disclosed. Dec. 18, 2007 · The Department of Homeland Security has 20 days to turn over records created by the Secret Service that will show if and when conservative religious leaders visited the White House during the last seven years, a federal judge ruled on Monday. The Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued DHS after the agency rejected the nonprofit group's Freedom of Information Act request for the records. The records include a variety of visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security. The group had specifically asked for records pertaining to alleged visits by conservative religious leaders James Dobson, Gary L. Bauer and Jerry Falwell, among others. Monday's decision could also force the agency to comply with other pending requests by CREW for records related to White House visits by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. The Bush administration argued that the visitor-related documents were not "agency records" and therefore not subject to the FOIA's disclosure provisions. Among other arguments, DHS noted that members of the president and vice president's staff had contributed information to the records' creation to an extent that had sufficiently disassociated the documents from the Secret Service and DHS. Judge Royce C. Lamberth rejected this argument, finding that the agency did indeed create and control the records to a degree necessary to trigger the FOIA. "While the Secret Service may be correct that Presidential and Vice-Presidential staff do at times provide much of the 'information' contained in these records, this fact does not, by itself, prove the Secret Service does not create these documents," Lamberth wrote. "The FOIA deals with documents, not information." CREW attorney Anne L. Weismann welcomed the outcome, noting that the decision sends a message to the Bush administration officials that "they're not above the law." "I think these efforts by an administration to manipulate the law, unchecked, have very serious consequences for us in terms of transparency and in trying to find out what is going on behind the closed doors of the White House," Weismann said. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service declined to comment on the case. Spokesmen for the White House and Justice Department told the Associated Press that administration lawyers were reviewing the decision. NMU (12/18/2007): Judge orders release of White House visitor records
  7. karira

    RTI Act empowers masses: Judge

    RTI Act empowers masses: Judge Express News Service BELGAUM: The Right to Information Act, 2005, is a potent tool in the hands of the people to keep an eye on the government machineries. The Act that seeks to empower the masses helps bridging the gap between the rulers and the ruled, said Dakshina Moorthy, retired judge. Moorthy was speaking after inaugurating one-day seminar on ‘Right to information Act 2005’ organised by Raja Lakhamgouda Law College in association with Karnataka Institute for Law and Parliamentary Reform (KILPAR), here on Friday. The judge said to create awareness about the law and to disseminate information are the two aims of KILPAR which it does by arranging various programmes like seminars, conferences and symposia. S M Kulkarni, chairman, Karnatak Law Society, Belgaum presided over the function. D Y Kulkarni, principal of the college welcomed and Gayatri Sarvate introduced. S S Desai proposed a vote of thanks. Santosh Patil, Ashwini Parab, Ashwini Gadgil and others were present. RTI Act empowers masses: Judge - Newindpress.com
  8. Aspirants to public office have to disclose their criminal links and income but when it comes to judges, the RTI Act threatens their ‘independence’. Why? PRASHANT BHUSHAN There was a time when the courts in India, particularly the Supreme Court, waxed eloquent about the “Right to Information”, being a part of the constitutionally enshrined right to speech and expression. Thus, while rejecting the government’s claim of privilege on the blue book containing the security instructions for the prime minister in Indira Gandhi’s case, the court said, “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.” Thereafter, while rejecting the government’s claim of privilege on the correspondence between the Chief Justice and the law minister on the appointment and transfer of judges, the court said, “Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its creedal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing. The citizens have a right to decide by whom and by what rules they shall be governed and they are entitled to call on those who govern on their behalf to account for their conduct. No democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of the government. It is only if people know how government is functioning that they can fulfil the role which democracy assigns to them and make democracy a really effective participatory democracy.” It was on the basis that the Right to Information is a fundamental right of people, that the court ordered that even candidates contesting elections would be obligated to publicly disclose information about their criminal antecedents and their income and assets etc. Yet, though the court’s general pronouncements on the Right to Information have been very liberal, it’s practices have often not been in conformity with the declared right. Thus, for example, the courts often follow the practice of asking the government and public authorities to file reports in sealed covers in court. These reports are then perused only by judges and often not given to the opposite parties or their lawyers. Often the orders and judgements of courts are based on their perception formed on the basis of these “confidential reports”, which is not only a violation of the right to information of the opposite party, but also in violation of the principles of natural justice, considered to be sacrosanct. The double standards of the courts on the Right to Information became even more obvious after the Right to Information Act came into force. Though the Act clearly applies to courts that are obviously included in the definition of public authorities, most High Courts did not even appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) even months after the Act came into force. Some have still not appointed them, thus effectively denying the right to information to the people about the courts. Moreover, many of even those that appointed pios have framed their own rules that effectively deny information about administrative or financial matters. Thus, the Delhi High Court Rules provide that: » “5. Exemption from disclosure of information — The information specified under Section 8 of the Act shall not be disclosed and made available and in particular the following information shall not be disclosed: » Such information which is not in the public domain or does not relate to judicial functions and duties of the court and matters incidental and ancillary thereto.” Thus, information sought regarding the appointment of Class iii and iv employees by the High Court, who are reported to have been appointed on extraneous considerations, without any public advertisement or selection, was denied by the High Court, citing this rule. This rule means that no information will be given about the expenditures incurred by the High Court (from public funds) or about any appointments or transfers. This is in total violation of the rti Act that allows exemption from disclosure only on certain grounds specified in Section 8 of the Act and on no other ground. No public authority can refuse to disclose information that does not fall under the exemptions permissible under Section 8 of the Act. Rule 5 of the Delhi High Court rules clearly violates the Act and is thus liable to be struck down. Not only this, the High Court rules have increased the application fees from the normal Rs 10 to up to Rs 500. And the penalty for non-disclosure has been reduced from the maximum of Rs 25,000 as provided in the Act to Rs 500, which is hardly likely to deter any information officer from wantonly denying information. Thus every attempt has been made to dilute the Act and make it as difficult as possible for citizens to access information about the courts. They have been emboldened to do all this in the secure knowledge that to challenge such illegal rules, the citizen would have to approach the same courts. The Supreme Court has recommended to the government that so far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the decision of the Registrar General of the court should be final and not subject to any independent appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC). They have further recommended that the Chief Justice should have the unfettered right to interdict the disclosure of any information, which in his opinion, might compromise the independence of the judiciary. The Chief Justice has already gone on record to say that even the disclosure of income and assets by judges or the formation of any independent disciplinary authority over judges, would compromise the independence of the judiciary. Going by this, it is obvious that no information about complaints against judges or about their incomes and assets would be available under the Right to Information. Thus while the Supreme Court decrees that even candidates aspiring to become public servants (MPs or MLAs) would be required to disclose their assets, when it comes to sitting judges, such disclosure would violate the independence of the judiciary! There cannot be a more glaring case of double standards. The track record of the courts on cases arising out of the rti Act is also not very inspiring. Even the occasional progressive orders of the CIC ordering various public authorities to disclose information have been stayed by the Delhi High Court and the matter remains pending for months and years thereafter. Thus, even the order of the CIC to merely peruse the correspondence between the then President and the prime minister on the Gujarat genocide of 2002 has been stayed by the High Court, though the Act specifically provides that no information will be withheld from the CIC. Similarly, the order of the CIC asking the upsc to disclose the marks obtained by candidates in the preliminary examination has also been stayed by the High Court, as have various other orders of the CIC. All this shows that while the courts have been liberal in making pronouncements about the citizen’s right to information in a democracy, and have also in cases implemented it with regards to others, they have been very reluctant to practice what they preach. The dictum appears to be that transparency and accountability is good for others, but the courts and judges are sui generis, and in their case transparency would compromise their independence. The wand of “Independence of the Judiciary” has always been waved by the judiciary to shield themselves from accountability, going to the extent of saying that not even an FIR can be registered against judges for any offence without the prior written permission of the Chief Justice of India. On top of all this, they enjoy the power of contempt, where they can send any person who accuses any judge to jail. It is not surprising then that the voices to make the judiciary accountable are growing louder and are now beginning to take the shape of a public campaign. The common people are beginning to realise that they are the main stakeholders in the judicial system and they must bring grassroots pressure on the authorities for them to reform the system. (Bhushan is a senior Supreme Court advocate) Tehelka - The People's Paper
  9. karira

    Bombay judge faces prosecution

    Bombay judge faces prosecution Mumbai, Sep 9: Justice Jaynarayan Patel, senior judge of the Bombay High Court, may face prosecution for violating the Urban Ceiling Act (ULCA) in a land deal he transacted in Nagpur over four months ago. The judge and his Shrinarayan and Harinarayan have not yet filed the mandatory return of their ancestral land in Nagpur's Chinchbhuvan, which they sold to a firm. It has been almost a month since the deadline given to them by the ULCA authority has elapsed, official sources said. The ULCA authority sent Patels a letter on May 14, asking them to submit details of the property on the basis of which it could declare how much of the land was surplus as per the provisions of the law and how much was retainable. A reminder was also sent later, but neither of the letters has been replied to, ULCA sources said Sunday. "The letters issued to me seem to have been lost in transit. I came to know about it quite late from my brother. We will file our reply and do whatever is required by law", Justice Patel told IANS. Confirming that his office had issued a reminder letter to the Patel brothers on Aug 6 asking them to file land returns under relevant provisions of the ULCA by Aug 13, Nagpur additional collector U.S. Dahalkar told IANS that action would be taken as per the procedure laid down. Justice Patel said he has not violated any law, that he did not receive any letter, and that he was ready to furnish any information and fully abide by the law. The Patel brothers entered into an agreement on April 26 to sell 41.14 acres of their ancestral land to a Mumbai-based realty firm Hagwood Pvt. Ltd. through its director Nikhil Chaturvedi at the rate of Rs.25.50 million per acre to over Rs.1.5 billion. The biggest land deal in Nagpur till date was hailed for its "transparency" as Justice Patel had insisted on transactions by cheque backed with bank guarantee, with no black money involved. But it also raised eyebrows because of the exorbitant rate - at least five times the highest prevailing market rate - it involved. Nikhil Chaturvedi's brother Salil owns the leading garment brand Provogue. Located adjacent to the land acquired by the government for the upcoming MIHAN (Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur) or cargo hub project and the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) being developed around it, the land in the area has seen mind-boggling price appreciation. But the going rate has still not crossed Rs.5 million per acre. While Patels sought ULCA authority's permission to sell the land on May 9, that is 14 days after entering into an agreement with Hagwood, they had mentioned in the agreement that they were not restricted or restrained under ULCA provisions from selling the properties. The judge said the Chinchbhuvan land did not attract the provisions of the ULCA as it had been reserved for commercial purposes, he said he was ready to surrender whatever portion of the land was declared surplus under the ULCA. To a question whether he and his brothers would return the money to the buyer in case their agreement to sell the land was rendered null and void, Justice Patel said, "Yes, certainly", but added that it was a matter between the parties to the agreement. The ULCA authority was apparently forced to issue notices to Justice Patel because of persistent queries made by Nagpur legislator Devendra Fadnavis under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Fadnavis also raised the issue in the Maharashtra assembly during its monsoon session. While Justice Patel, who has earned fame as an upright judge through several landmark rulings, might escape prosecution for now by filing the land return and surrendering the surplus land, he certainly faces acute embarrassment. Bombay judge faces prosecution @ NewKerala.Com News Channel
  10. Jain case: disclose file, rules CIC Special Correspondent "Correspondence does not merit exemption under RTI Act" He asked for copies of all file notings, opinions of the apex court collegium Law Ministry refused information on grounds of confidentiality, third party interests NEW DELHI: In a landmark decision, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Saturday directed the disclosure of the file containing, among other things, the correspondence between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Law Minister on the controversial appointment of Justice Virender Jain as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah ruled that the correspondence contained in the file did not fall under Sec. 8 of the Right to Information Act, which gives exemption from disclosure to certain categories of sensitive information. The CIC, however, held that Justice Y.K. Sabharwal's July 27, 2006 letter to Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj contained references to a number of persons who were "third parties" to the matter. It was through this letter that the Chief Justice conveyed the decision of the Supreme Court collegium on the appointment of Mr. Justice Jain to the Law Minister. Mr. Habibullah directed the Principal Information Officer of the Ministry of Law & Justice to invite the third parties concerned to make written or oral submissions on the question of disclosure of information pertaining to them and ascertain if any them had valid objections against disclosure of information relating to them. The CIC further directed that in the event a valid ground was established, the appellant "may be supplied" with information excluding "the objectionable portion." He ordered the exercise to be completed within a month from the date of his decision. Appellant Subhash Chander Agrawal originally sought the complete file relating to Mr. Justice Jain's appointment from the President's Secretariat. He asked for copies of all file notings, the opinions of the members of the Supreme Court collegium as well as the correspondence between the President and the Prime Minister. The President's Secretariat transferred the petition to the Ministry of Law & Justice, which refused the information on grounds of confidentiality and third party interests. In arriving at his decision, the CIC relied upon a judgment of Justice P.K. Bhagwati who had ruled against granting immunity from disclosure to the correspondence between the Law Minister, the Chief Justice of Delhi and the Chief Justice of India. Said Mr. Justice Bhagwati : "....Today the process of judicial appointments and transfers is shrouded in mystery. The exercise of the power of appointment and transfer remains a sacred ritual whose mystery is confined only to a handful of high priests, namely the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chief Minister of the State, the Law Minister of the Central Government and the Chief Justice of India ... We do not see any reason why this process of appointment and transfer should be regarded as so sacrosanct that no one should be able to pry into it..." The Hindu : National : Jain case: disclose file, rules CIC
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