"Information sought infringes on internal administration"

The Madras High Court has set aside an order of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission (TNIC) of January 2012 directing the court Registrar-General to furnish to an RTI applicant details relating to the number of subordinate judges, employees and complaints of bribery in the subordinate judiciary.

In its order allowing a writ petition by the Registrar-General challenging the TNIC direction of January 10, a Division Bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and M.Venugopal did not agree with the Commission’s view that the applicant had asked “only for statistical details and not names of individuals.” The TNIC order was not sustainable in the eye of law, the Bench said.

K.Elango, an advocate and a former Assistant Solicitor-General of India and Special Government Pleader in Tamil Nadu, had posed questions which included the number of subordinate judges in Tamil Nadu and employees in the judiciary in the State, whether the registry was having any coordination with the DVAC to trap judicial officers or court staff based on complaints, number of complaints received by the Registry and the Vigilance Department between 2001 and 2010 against judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary and staff and how many complaints ended in dismissal, suspension, issue of memo and dropping of case and conviction during the period. The applicant also wanted to know the number of complaints against High Court staff against whom complaints of corruption had been received and the fate of the complaints.

The Registrar-General submitted that while passing the impugned order, the TNIC had failed to appreciate that the information sought for infringed on the High Court’s internal administration.

The Bench said it was of the considered view that the information sought pertained to the internal delicate function of the High Court and related to invasion of privacy of respective individuals if the information so as asked for was furnished. More so, the information asked for had no relationship to any public activity or interest.

Also, it was not to a fuller extent open to the public. If the information sought for was furnished, it would open the floodgates to similar applications.

Therefore, some self-restrictions were to be imposed in regard to furnishing the information. Further, if the information requested was given, “it will have an adverse impact on the regular and normal, serene functioning of the High Court’s office on the administrative side.”