CJI’s office to be brought under purview of RTI Act, holds constitution bench

New Delhi: A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi held that the office of the chief justice of India (CJI) should be under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is a public office. 

Other members of the bench are Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The notice regarding the pronouncement of the judgment was made public on the apex court’s official website on Tuesday afternoon.

Reading out the majority verdict, Justice Sanjiv Khanna said 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.

A five-judge constitution bench had on April 4 reserved its verdict on the appeals filed in 2010 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.

“Nobody wants to remain in the state of darkness or keep anybody in the state of darkness,” it had said. “The question is drawing a line. In the name of transparency, you can’t destroy the institution.”

Earlier, in a landmark verdict on 10 January, 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, KG Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

The high court verdict was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice AP Shah (since retired) and Justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar. The bench had dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court that contended bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would “hamper” judicial independence.

Justice Sen retired as the judge of the apex court, while Justice Murlidhar is a sitting judge of the high court.