The Supreme Court has favoured the inclusion of Governor and also the Chief Justice under the Right to Information Act. A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said that all offices of constitutional functionaries must be brought under the ambit of the RTI Act.
It was hearing a batch of petitions challenging a Bombay high court order declaring the governor’s office as a public authority and directing the Goa Raj Bhavan to make public the governor’s report sent to the President on the political situation in the state during July-August 2007. The information was sought under RTI by Manohar Parrikar, who was then the leader of the opposition in the Goa assembly.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, contended that another case pertaining to the CJI’s office was pending before the Constitution Bench and the government’s appeal should be tagged along with those cases. He said constitutional authorities discharge sovereign functions and they should be exempted from coming under the RTI Act.
The bench, however, did not agree with his submission and said, “What is there to hide? There is nothing to hide for the Chief Justice of India. There is no secretive business of the chief justice and the office of CJI should be brought within RTI’s ambit. Why governor and CJI should not be brought under RTI?” the bench asked.
The issue whether the Supreme Court should come within the ambit of RTI Act making it obligatory for the CJI to make public information pertaining to the appointment of judges and his correspondences with the government is under consideration before a Constitution bench. But it is for the first time that the apex court batted for implementation of RTI in the judiciary.
The court’s observation assumes significance as the apex court had time and again refused to reveal information under the Act despite the Central Information Commission (CIC) and some high courts declaring the CJI’s office as a public authority under the RTI Act. The administrative side of the apex court has challenged all such orders in the SC and cases are still pending.
The Delhi high court had in 2009 declared the CJI as a public authority under the Act and asked the top court to make assets of its judges public. The verdict was challenged by the SC through its Central Public Information Officers before the apex court, which is still pending.