The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Chief Justice of India’s office was within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, ANI reported.

The judgement upholding the Delhi High Court’s verdict was delivered by a five-judge Constitution Bench of outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.

Khanna read out the majority judgement, Bar and Bench reported. “Public interest demands disclosure, judicial independence must be kept in mind,” he said. “Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand.”

Ramana and Chandrachud read out separate opinions on the matter. “There needs to be a balance and the whole bulwark of upholding it is on the judiciary,” said Ramana, adding that RTI Act should not be allowed to be used as surveillance tool. “Judiciary needs to be protected from such breach.”

Chandrachud, meanwhile, pointed out that judicial independence did not mean that the judges would be “precluded from the rule of law”, Bar and Bench reported. Neither RTI is under Article 19 of Constitution nor is the right to privacy absolute, he added.

The top court had reserved its order on April 4 on the appeals filed in 2010 by the Supreme Court’s secretary general and central public information officer, challenging the Delhi High Court order. The court had then said that no one wanted a “system of opaqueness”, but the judiciary could not be damaged in exchange for transparency.

In January 10, 2010, the Delhi High Court had ruled that the CJI’s office came within the purview of the RTI. In an 88-page verdict, it had said that judicial independence was not a privilege but a responsibility of a judge.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal had filed an application seeking the correspondence between the Supreme Court Collegium and the government on the appointment of judges. The top court had refused to provide the information and the case moved to the Central Information Commission, which ruled in favour of Agarwal in 2009.

Following this, the top court had appealed to the Delhi High Court, which had rejected it. The Supreme Court in November 2010 had appealed to itself and a bench had referred it to a three-judge bench. In August 2016, the three-judge bench referred it to a Constitution bench.

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