RTI does cover chief justice, says info panel chief
National transparency watchdog — the Central Information Commission (CIC) — has contradicted Chief Justice of India (CJI), KG Balakrishnan’s views that the Right to Information (RTI) law did not apply to his office.Updated: Sep 01, 2009, 00:07 IST
National transparency watchdog — the Central Information Commission (CIC) — has contradicted Chief Justice of India (CJI), KG Balakrishnan’s views that the Right to Information (RTI) law did not apply to his office.
The country’s Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah told HT: “There should be no confusion at all. It is an office created under the Constitution and does not fall in the list of those exempt from providing information under the RTI.”
According to the RTI law, only 18 organisations are exempt from providing information on India’s security related issues, the Supreme Court (SC) does not figure in the list.
The comments by the CIC come two days before Delhi High Court’s verdict on whether the RTI Act is applicable to the office of the CJI.
The apex court had refused to accept a CIC order in January to provide information under RTI on whether judges declare their assets to the CJI, and had challenged it in the HC.
Habibullah was responding to CJI Balakrishnan’s comments on Friday that his office was out of purview of the RTI Act, the transparency law.
“The office of the Chief Justice is privy to so much of information like privileged communication…How can all this information be disclosed (under the RTI Act)?” the CJI had said.
Asked for his response on the CJI’s comments, Habibullah said though it was a matter of litigation, but “Article 124 of the Constitution, which deals with the Supreme Court, makes it clear that the CJI and judges are in the category of public authorities,” he said.
The CIC said whether the Supreme Court and the CJI are a single public authority or two, “could be debated, but according to the RTI Act, there is no dispute on the CJI being covered under it.”
Habibullah said: “The position of President of India, governors of states, Lok Sabha and state assembly speakers, CJI and chief justice of high courts has been clearly defined under the RTI Act.”
The CJI’s comments have already drawn sharp reactions from jurists and RTI activists.