The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority under the Right to Information Act.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna, while reading out the majority verdict said that public interest demands that transparency is maintained. “Transparency does not undermine judicial independence,” the judge, who is also in the line of succession to be the CJI stated.
The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The other members of the bench are Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
It was on 2010 that a five-judge constitution bench had on April 4 reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by the Supreme Court secretary-general and its central public information officer against the high court and the central information commission’s (CIC’s) orders.
The bench, headed by the chief justice, had wrapped up the hearing, saying nobody wants a “system of opaqueness”, but the judiciary cannot be destroyed in the name of transparency.
It said that nobody wants to remain in the state of darkness or keep anybody in the state of darkness. The question is drawing a line. In the name of transparency, you can’t destroy the institution, the bench said.
In a landmark verdict on January 10, 2010, the Delhi High Court had held that the office of the chief justice of India comes within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.
The 88-page judgment was then seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.