Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The constitution bench will decide if information sought under the RTI Act will affect or interfere with the functioning or independence of the judiciary.
Two years ago, India's Supreme Court had declared that the decisions of its collegium — the body of SC judges that decides the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the country's high courts — will for the first time be made public. Now, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court is examining whether the office of the Chief Justice Of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Attorney General KK Venugopal argued before the constitution bench that such RTI disclosures might affect the independence of the judiciary.
"The law (the Right to Information Act) is in existence since 2005 and it sets out as to what would be the rights to information and what would be the restrictions on that right. A totally new environment has come into existence by passing this law which invokes the constitutional provisions," Venugopal said on Wednesday.
The constitution bench — headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi — was hearing an appeal filed by the Supreme Court secretary general against the January 2010 verdict of the Delhi High Court which had declared that the CJI’s office was a “public authority” under the RTI Act, 2005. In other words, that it comes under the purview of the act.
The bench is also examining the crucial question of whether communications/ file notings between the collegium and the government on the appointment and transfer of judges come under the act, as do judges' assets.
"Independence of judiciary is part of the basic structure and even while deciding on this Act it had to be done by keeping in mind the various constitutional provisions. If information under RTI is sought relating to official secrets, then it will have to be seen to what extent can the right to information be allowed," Venugopal said.