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drsayantan

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Dated: 20th Jan, 2009

 

Friends,

 

Thanks for your overwhelming response to my earlier post.

 

Hope you all know the following incident:-

 

One Mr. S C Agrawal had sought from the Supreme Court (SC) registry information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act regarding:

 

1. The assets of the Chief justice of India (CJI) and other Supreme Court judges, and

2. A copy of the 1997 resolution, which required every judge to make a declaration, before the CJI or the Chief Justices of High Courts concerned, of his or her assets in the form of real estate or investments held in his or her name or in the names of the spouse and any dependent person.While his plea for a copy of the resolution was accepted, his demand for information on whether the judges declared their assets to the CJI/Chief Justices of the High Courts and if so the details thereof was rejected by the registry on the ground that it was not in its possession. Mr. Agrawal moved the appellate authority, (as per recommendation of the RTI Act), which held that such information could not be provided!! (Just think!!)

He then filed a revision appeal before the Chief Information Commissioner of India (CIC).

 

The CIC rejected the Registry\u0026#39;s contention that the Supreme Court and the CJI were not bound to share such information.

 

While his plea for a copy of the resolution was accepted, his demand for information on whether the judges declared their assets to the CJI/Chief Justices of the High Courts and if so the details thereof was rejected by the registry on the ground that it was not in its possession. At this, Mr. Agrawal moved the appellate authority, (as per recommendation of the RTI Act), which held that such information could not be provided!! (Just think!!)

 

He then filed a revision appeal before the Chief Information Commissioner of India (CIC).

 

The CIC rejected the Registry's contention that the Supreme Court and the CJI were not bound to share such information.

,"Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Mr. Wajahat Habibullah and Commissioners A.N. Tiwari and M.M. Ansari, directed the Supreme Court Registry to furnish to Mr S C Agrawal, the above applicant, information on declaration of assets as per a May 7, 1997 resolution adopted at an all-India judges conference.

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thanks for your link, Mr/Mrs "wehelp",

 

but I'm illiterate in telegu, and I'm really sorry to be so.

 

I'd be grateful, if you be kind enough to send an english or hindi or bengali gist of that article.

 

Regards

Sayantan Banerjee

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sandeepbaheti
"There is nothing under the Constitution or under any other law which requires the Judges of the Supreme Court to declare their assets to the Chief Justice of India. The fact that this is done under an informal resolution dated May 7, 1997 shows that it is purely voluntary and not required to be given under any legal provision and there can be no sanction for non-furnishing of such information."

Fully agreed that declaration is made voluntarily by the Hon'ble judges. But that does not mean that the declaration does not fall within the definition of information under RTI Act. Information means "any material in any form...."The Act nowhere says that voluntarily given information is to be excluded.

 

The decision of the CIC is ex facie erroneous and without jurisdiction in as much as it ignores the scheme and purpose underlying the Right to Information Act.

There is no explanation as to how the decision ignores the purpose of RTI Act. Nor can I find any reason for saying so. Thus, with all due respect to the Supreme Court and its judges, I have to form an opinion that this contention is baseless.

 

The decision raises far reaching issues of public importance pertaining to the highest judicial body under our Constitution namely the Supreme Court of India and will have far reaching consequences .

Should I assume that the Hon'ble Judges are not comfortable with the "far reaching consequences"?

 

The information sought for is not information which is in the public domain and as such, the application filed by the respondent was not at all maintainable. The Right to Information Act was designed to obtain information under the control of public authorities.

There is no such thing called "availble in public domain. All information held by public authorities is available to citizens, subject only to exemptions contained in sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The information in this case is, beyond any doubt, under the control of public authority.

 

Voluntary declaration of assets by judges made to the Chief Justice of India cannot be said to be material which is held by or under the control of a public authority

Since the material is held by CJI who is a public servant, it is definitely held by a public authoruty. Merely because it is voluntary does not exempt it from disclosure.

Let us take an example of a person filing a written complaint to a municipal corporation. The complaint is voluntary in as much as the complainant is not compelled by any law to file the complaint. No action can be taken against him if he does not file that complaint. This fact does not in any way make the complaint out of public domain and the information can very much be obtained under RTI.

 

The definition of "information" under Section 2(f) of the Act shows that the information which is required to be given must be information in the public domain and information which is required to be maintained in accordance with law or under some provision of law

I am unable to concur with this interpretation. Just the fact that information is 'held' is sufficient to make it liable for disclosure. For example, if in a certain public office, there is a rule that a certain document must be preserved for 5 years. Suppose, the document is voluntarily maintained by the office even beyond 5 years. They cannot refute an RTI application asking for that document on the grounds that it is no longer required to be maintained under law.

 

Apart from the fact that the CJI is the head of judiciary, the office of the CJI is altogether distinct from the Supreme Court of India as an institution. The office of the CJI performs several distinct and unique functions.

Since CJI is an officer of Supreme Court, the PIO of SC may get the information from CJI u/s 5(4). In this case the CJI becomes a deemed PIO as per Sec 5(5) and in case of default in providing information, CIC has a right to impose on him penalties as per Sec 20.

In case office of CJI is considered to be a different PA, the application has to be transferred u/s 6(3).

 

The CJI is not a Public Authority, as defined in Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, and therefore, is not required to designate a Central Public Information Officer for it, or to supply the information held or maintained by it [him].

If we go by the definition of PA as per Sec 2(h)(a), office of CJI is beyond doubt a PA.

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RAVEENA_O

An Act to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto

 

Whereas the Constitution of India has established democratic Republic;

 

And whereas democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;

 

And whereas revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;

 

And whereas it is necessary to harmonize these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal;

Now, therefore, it is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it.

 

Be it enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-sixth Year of the Republic of India as follows

 

 

It is in this context that one might read and digest the RTI Act, 2005

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mr sandeep baheti,

thanks for your important post.

I admire deeply that you have rightly identified the unconstitutional and irrelevant points raised by the solicitor general in his appeal petition.

Thanks for your relevant quotes also.

I hope that you would enrich us further in this CJI Vs CIC issue.

regards

Sayantan Banerjee

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mr sandeep baheti,

thanks for your important post.

I admire deeply that you have rightly identified the unconstitutional and irrelevant points raised by the solicitor general in his appeal petition.

Thanks for your relevant quotes also.

I hope that you would enrich us further in this CJI Vs CIC issue.

regards

Sayantan Banerjee

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RAVEENA_O

Wah!, we are extremely proud of our Community, which know and understand law better than CJI or Solicitor General of India.

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sureshram56

SC slams Delhi HC judge who said the CJI comes under RTI

Krishnadas Rajagopal

Posted: Tuesday , Oct 06, 2009 at 0502 hrs New Delhi:

Challenging the Delhi High Court order directing it to disclose assets of judges under the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court today called it an “error in law” and an “academic” exercise.

It said all its judges had filed declaration of assets as per the 1997 resolution but the office of the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court registry were not one and the High Court “single judge erred in law in holding that all the information received by the CJI falls under the purview of the Act”.

 

The Supreme Court, filing an appeal okayed by Attorney General G E Vahanvati, called for setting aside the September 2 order of Justice S Ravindra Bhat. It said the Full Court Resolution of 1997 was an “in-house procedure developed within the judiciary on the basis of only moral authority, which places it at a lower footing”.

 

Justice Bhat had held that the CJI was a public authority whose office was within the purview of the RTI law.

 

The Supreme Court appeal questioned why Justice Bhat delved into “irrelevant” issues like the “role of judges in society... role of courts and the scheme of power-sharing... duties of judges” which constitute no “legal basis” for invoking the RTI against Supreme Court judges.

 

“The learned single judge had undertaken an exercise of elucidation of the concepts of essential ethical behaviour of judges which are not relevant for determining whether the RTI applicant had a right to information,” the appeal said.

 

The Supreme Court said all its sitting judges were declaring their assets before the CJI. In line with the HC order, it informed RTI applicant S C Agrawal today that “all the sitting judges of Supreme Court had filed the declaration of assets as per the resolution dated May 7, 1997.” It also said that an appeal was being filed against the HC order.

 

SC slams Delhi HC judge who said the CJI comes under RTI

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