The Chief Information Commissioner directed the Supreme Court Registry to furnish within 15 days the information it had about a Union Minister who allegedly approached Madras High Court Judge Justice R. Reghupathi to influence his decision in an anticipatory bail plea.
Passing orders on an appeal filed by RTI activist S.C. Agrawal, CIC Wajahat Habibullah said “we are not convinced that the disclosure of information sought by the appellant would in any way infringe on the constitutional stature of Justices of the High Court or indeed in any way diminish the exalted status that we readily concede is granted to him in a democracy such as ours.”
The order said: “The implication in this appeal is that, in fact, there has been an attempt to diminish that exalted status by unseemly pressure and the information sought is a means to expose such an unworthy attempt, if any. Besides, the argument constructed so painstakingly by counsel for the respondent Devadatt Kamat to substantiate his plea that information sought cannot be deemed to be held or under the control of the Supreme Court, has also failed to convince because the different rulings referred repeatedly to matters of property and property records, not questions of general correspondence which would constitute general information.”
It said, “should the plea of the respondent’s counsel be accepted such a decision would have devastating effect on the very foundation of the principles of transparency and accountability of which the Right to Information Act, 2005 rests firm.”
In response to Mr. Agrawal’s application to Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, seeking a copy of complete correspondence the CJI had on the issue involving a Union Minister having approached Justice Reghupathi through his/her lawyer, the Supreme Court Registry said: “The information sought is not handled by the Registry of the Supreme Court, and the information relating thereto is neither maintained nor available in the Registry.”
Mr. Agrawal also wanted to know the steps taken against the Minister referred to in the media reports and the advocate who tried to influence/approach Mr. Justice Reghupathi for a biased decision.
Allowing the appeal, the CIC directed the Supreme Court Registry to furnish the information sought except to those questions pertaining to in-house procedure and the conduct of Justices of the High Court.
By another order, the CIC asked the Registry to furnish to Mr. Agrawal information and documents relating to the correspondence exchanged between the then Union Law Minister and other constitutional authorities together with file notings relating to the appointment of three Supreme Court judges — Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha. He alleged that these three judges superseded three Chief Justices of High Courts, viz. Justice A.P. Shah; Justice A.K. Patnaik (now elevated to the Supreme Court) and Justice V.K. Gupta in elevation to the Supreme Court, despite objections by the Prime Minister’s Office.