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Constitution bench to examine whether Supreme Court comes under RTI

A Constitution bench of Supreme Court is to examine a plea which questioned whether the apex court was exempted from disclosing information on appointment of judges and other matters under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi referred the issue to the Constitution Bench comprising atleast five judges on the ground that a substantial question of law was involved in the matter.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by RTI activist Subhash Agarwal against the Delhi High Court order which reversed the CIC order allowing Agarwal’s plea that the apex court should disclose the information relating to the appointment of the judges.

Appearing for Agarwal, advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted before the bench “the entire issue is rooted in the order of Delhi High Court and that of the Central Information Commission holding that Supreme Court was covered under the RTI and was obliged to disclose information about the judges’ appointments and other judicial information.”

Contending that an impression is gaining ground that judiciary is shying away from bringing transparency in its system due to delay in deciding cases, Bhushan said there is a delay in hearing of the matter and argued “when it comes to others, the Supreme Court directs even the poll candidates to disclose their assets but when it comes to judges, it shies away.”

To this, the bench asked “why should anybody be shy of answering a question”.

The court then framed questions to be examined by the constitution bench, including “whether the concept of independence of judiciary requires and demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought” under the RTI Act and “whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary.”

The apex court had earlier in November 2010, said that independence of judiciary formed part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

The independence of judiciary and the fundamental right to free speech and expression are of a great value and both for them are required to be balanced, the court had said.

Earlier, in 2009, the Central Information Commission had upheld Agrawal’s plea seeking from the apex court complete information, including file notings, relating to appointment of Justices H L Dattu, A K Ganguly and R M Lodha, all of whom have since retired.

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