- November 30, 2019
- Posted by: user
- Category: Current Affairs
The Supreme Court has, in a landmark judgement by a five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, held that office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority under the Right to Information Act. The verdict says that the Supreme Court is a “public authority” and the office of the CJI is part and parcel of the institution. Hence, if the Supreme Court is a public authority, so is the office of the CJI. This means that the judiciary cannot function in total insulation as the judges have a constitutional post and discharge public duty.
But the bench also stated that Right to Privacy is an important aspect which has to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the CJI. RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance and that judicial independence has to be given due consideration while dealing with transparency.
Delhi High Court had earlier ruled in a judgment that office of the Chief Justice comes under the purview of RTI. It added that the concept of judicial independence is not a judge’s personal privilege but responsibility cast on the person. A plea was filed against this by Supreme Court Secretary-General.
Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable. Under the RTI Act, 2005, every public authority has to provide information to persons requesting for the information under the Act. Public Authority includes the body constituted by or under the Constitution.
Salient features of RTI act 2005:
- Confers on all citizens the right of access to information.
- Appointment of public information officer in each department as nodal officer.
- 30 day deadline to release information and 48 hours if the question is of life and liberty.
- Free information for Below Poverty Line citizens.
- Imposes obligation on public agencies for voluntary disclosure of information.
- Certain types of information are exempted e.g.
1) Intelligence organisations
2) Security organisations e.g BSF and CRPF
However, disclosure is still mandatory when public interest demands it.
Recently, Parliament passed the RTI amendment bill to change certain provisions regarding the tenure and service conditions of Chief Information Commissioner and other information Commissioners at central and state level which according to scholars has reduced the teeth of RTI act. Other issues that remain in implementation of RTI are facilitation of access to information, complicated system of requests, insistence on demand drafts, absence of single window agencies, non-application to NGOs and Political Parties, absence of record keeping procedures, etc.
The second administrative reforms commission recommended repealing of Official secrets Act, regular training and awareness generation, monitoring at various levels, public grievance redressal and single portal for electronic disclosures, etc.
RTI is based on the pillars of Transparency, Accountability and People’s participation. The judiciary has upheld these pillars and balanced them with judicial independence and right to privacy. Adherence to these principles will help in guiding the future of RTI.