The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict in a case whether the Chief Justice of India’s office is covered under the purview of the Right to Information Act, PTI reported.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing appeals filed in 2010 by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information Officer of the top court challenging a Delhi High Court order which held that the Chief Justice’s office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
The Supreme Court registry told the court that disclosing highly confidential information like deliberations of collegium in appointing or elevating judges under RTI law would be “deleterious to functioning” of the judiciary.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, who represented the Supreme Court’s Central Public Information Officer, said opening up highly-sensitive correspondence of the Supreme Court’s collegium and its workings under the RTI Act would make judges and the government shy and “destroy judicial independence”, The Hindu reported. Venugopal said even disclosure of personal assets of judges under RTI was an “unwarranted intrusion” into their privacy.
He argued on three cases which the Supreme Court is considering together – demand for corresponded between the collegium and the government, information on disclosure of assets of sitting judges and information on alleged attempts made by a Union minister in 2009 to influence a Madras High Court judge, reported Bar and Bench.
Activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal had filed an RTI application seeking the correspondence between the Supreme Court Collegium and the government on the appointment of judges, according to The Hindu. The Supreme Court refused to provide the information and the case moved to the Central Information Commission which ruled in favour of Agarwal in 2009.
The Supreme Court then appealed to the Delhi High Court, which dismissed the appeal. In January 2010, a three-judge High Court bench upheld the earlier High Court decision. In November that year, the Supreme Court appealed to itself and a bench referred it to a three-judge bench.
In August 2016, the three-judge bench referred it to a Constitution bench.