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Can't reveal our medical expenses under RTI : SC

Risking accusations of maintaining double standards when it comes to transparency in public life, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused a plea to disclose under the Right to Information Act public money spent by serving and retired Supreme Court judges for medical expenses, saying it would be an unwarranted intrusion into their privacy.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said allowing such RTI requests would open a Pandora's box and lead to an invasion of the judges' personal rights.

Mr. Bhushan, who represented noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, said the court's refusal to reveal the public money spent on their medical bills would set a bad precedent and show to the world that it is “one set of rules for judges and another set of rules for others”.

“A refusal now would only fortify the public impression that when it comes to politicians and public officials, the judges are quick to preach transparency and accountability. But when it comes to their own, they do not want to disclose,” Mr. Bhushan responded.

Mr. Agarwal was challenging an order passed by the Delhi High Court on April 17, 2015, holding that medical bills of retired and serving judges of the Supreme Court are exempted information under RTI Act and cannot be disclosed to the public.

“Medical reimbursements of judges are paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India. If you are spending the citizen's money... my tax money, it becomes a public activity and is certainly a matter of public interest under the RTI Act,” Mr. Bhushan argued.

“It all starts like this... today, you want to know about medical expenses, tomorrow you would want to know the list of medicines a judge buys. Once you have the list, you will be able to detect what ails a judge... Mr. Prashant, as a senior lawyer, you should respect our privacy,” Chief Justice Dattu responded.

“Am I not entitled to know as to where my money is being spent? So, what is RTI for?” Mr. Bhushan asked, even as the Bench dismissed the petition.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 4:46:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/judges-and-their-families-medical-bill-not-entitled-to-be-disclosed-under-rti-says-supreme-court/article7378386.ece

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