Ruling on CJI’s office sets RTI example

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.   | Photo Credit: R. V. Moorthy

The judgment will prove to be a milestone in the journey to transparency: activist

Right to Information activists on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict declaring the office of the Chief Justice of India as a public authority under the RTI Act and said the apex court’s decision would now serve as a precedent to help usher in more transparency, especially on the part of institutions that had hitherto been reluctant to comply with the Act.

“It’s a landmark judgment which I welcome wholeheartedly and which will prove to be a milestone in the journey to transparency,” said RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. “The SC has dismissed the appeal of its own CPIO [Chief Public Information Officer] and brought the office of the CJI under the Act,” he added.

The entire case stems from Mr. Agrawal’s original RTI application seeking information on the complete correspondence between the Collegium and the government on certain judicial appointments, as well as the correspondence between a Madras High Court judge and the CJI regarding allegations of corruption.

‘Political parties’

Mr. Agrawal added that the judgment had far-reaching implications by setting an example for other bodies who resist transparency.


The most well-known holdouts are political parties, but a number of schools, trusts and public-private partnerships have also resisted categorisation as public authorities under the Act, including Delhi’s power distribution companies and dairy major Mother Dairy, he said. “When the office of the CJI itself is under the Act, how can they claim they are to be exempted,” he asked.

Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) said that the most significant aspect of the judgment was the court’s acknowledgment that “transparency and accountability go hand in hand, and that transparency need not lead to any compromise in judicial independence.”

“The office of the CJI has put itself under scrutiny,” Ms. Bhardwaj said. “In practical terms, this means that citizens can file RTI applications to the SC, and the CPIO of the court cannot deny information saying it is held by the CJI’s office and not the registry,” she added.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 2:38:22 PM |

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