In a major shift from its earlier position, the law ministry has decided to lift the veil of secrecy on complaints received against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts if a complainant has no objection making his or her name public.
The ministry’s decision to provide complaints of corruption and misconduct against the members of higher judiciary under the Right to Information (RTI) Act follows a direction from the central information commission (CIC) in a matter related to promotion of Supreme Court judges.
The ministry has, however, made it clear that information related to complaints against judges received by the government will be placed in the public domain if a complainant gives a no-objection certificate.
The ministry took 16 months to respond to an RTI application from Delhi-based activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had wanted to know whether any complaint against a serving judge was the reason behind the delay in his (judge’s) promotion to the Supreme Court.
The then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan had dismissed the complaint as “baseless”, following a thorough scrutiny by a panel of the top five judges in the Supreme Court (called its collegium).
A senior ministry official said the decision to provide a copy of the complaint followed a direction from the CIC, the apex transparency watchdog, that after any issue is finally settled the information should not be treated as classified.
Earlier this month, the CIC had directed the law ministry to make public the information about Supreme Court judges who were superseded as chief justices of high courts at least once before being promoted to the apex court since 2005.
The ministry had earlier refused to share the information in reply to an RTI application, saying, “no such list of chief justices of high courts, who were superseded before their selection as apex court judges, was maintained”.
Following the CIC’s intervention, the ministry revealed the names of 20 chief justices of high courts who were superseded before being promoted to the Supreme Court in the past six years.
Law ministry's decision to provide complaints of corruption and misconduct against the members of higher judiciary under the RTI follows a direction from the CIC in a matter related to promotion of SC judges.
But ministry has made it clear that information related to complaints against judges received by the government will be placed in the public domain if a complainant gives a no-objection certificate.