There has been universal criticism/condemnation of the CJI's views on RTI applicability,
There has been universal criticism/condemnation of the CJI's views on RTI applicability,
Last edited by Shrawan; 24-04-08 at 12:36 AM. Reason: moderated
Here the question is beyond the RTI. No one can challenge the authority of the Constitution, powers of the law making agency and democratic process as such. I wish the President of India could say what our Hon'ble Speaker has said : " EVERYTHING IS UNDER THE CONSITUTION AND THE ENACTMENTS MADE UNDER IT"
Front Page Editorial in telegraphindia.com on 25 April 2008:
The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Opinion | none exempt
The fear of transparency is so embedded in the Indian system of administration that the Right to Information Act is often seen as a devilish instrument. A commitment to transparency would have automatically led to a more welcoming attitude towards the RTI Act. Often some ruse or excuse is found to keep certain offices and institutions outside the purview of the said act. It was thus important that the chief information commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, reiterated the point — even though it seems somewhat self-evident to most people — that no constitutional authority is exempt from the RTI Act. The reiteration came in the context of a comment reportedly made by the chief justice, K.G. Balakrishnan. The latter apparently made the claim that the office of the chief justice was outside the RTI Act. Mr Balakrishnan said that the chief justice was not a public servant, but a constitutional authority and was therefore outside the act. Mr Habibullah was quick to point out to his lordship that the act covered all constitutional authorities. Mr Habibullah received strong, if gratuitous, support from the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee.
This exchange would not have entered even an episodic history of contemporary India had it not involved the holder of the highest judicial office in the land and had it not appeared that the chief justice of India was trying to protect his office from the RTI Act. It needs to be pointed out that the RTI Act is not something from which an office or an institution needs protection. The free flow of information is an integral part of a democratic polity. Citizens have the right to know in detail how an institution functions. This is not to erode the authority or the position of the institution; rather it is to enrich that institution. In a democracy power flows from the citizens, and it follows that they should, individually and collectively, have access to information. It is difficult to understand what principled objection there can be to this position. Any office or institution that is dependent on funds provided by tax-payers should fall within the purview of the RTI Act. The distinction between a public servant and constitutional authority in such a context becomes an otiose and an irrelevant one. The RTI should be more inclusive than restrictive, and the Supreme Court should ensure that the act is adhered to without a single violation.
dear sirs . tomoro Chief minister will say RTI does not appy to me and next day BABUS of all govt offices will say tRTI is not for me . eventually I think RTI will die like minimum wages act
LAGE RAHO RTI KE SAATH
New ideas needed to make it more effective
by Justice S.S. Sodhi (retd)
IT is a pity that a lawyer linked to the infamous Punjab Public Service Commission scam was recommended by the collegium of judges of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana for appointment as a judge of the High Court. Had this attempted move been successful, it would have evoked widespread disbelief and suspicion about the way our system of appointment of judges of the High Court functions. Luckily, the Supreme Court collegium of judges has thwarted what was definitely a questionable move.
Obviously, the recent statement of our Prime Minister that corruption is a challenge facing the judiciary manifests a decline in the reputation of the judiciary as also of the legal profession. Public confidence in the credibility of our judiciary, which is our most respected institution, is too precious to be allowed to get eroded. If that were to happen, the rule of law or even our democracy would be endangered.
As is well known, the stature and credibility of any institution is founded upon the quality and merit of those that belong to it. In other words, what is needed is the quality of the judges on the Bench and not just their number. The reference here is to the oft-heard statements emanating from the powers that be expressing a keen intent to appoint more judges.
For over a decade and a half ago, the predominant role in the appointment of judges of the High Courts and even the Supreme Court has vested almost entirely in the judiciary. Despite this, the overwhelming view in the legal profession appears to suggest that this has not eliminated delays in appointments or brought about any qualitative improvement in the appointments.
At the same time, one increasingly hears of unbecoming conduct on the part of some judges, even some chief justices and also lawyers, and they all seem to get away with their acts of commission and omission with impunity. Such being the state of affairs, there is clearly a need for transparency in the process of appointment of judges and also accountability for those appointed.
So long as appointments to the higher judiciary are considered and recommended by a small and exclusive group of judges - that too behind closed doors — this process cannot be considered immune from some of the undeserving coming on to the Bench, with the deserving being left behind.
Illustrative of this is the instance of a lawyer recommended for appointment as a judge being denied the appointment as the intelligence report described him to be a “boozer”. No reason was conveyed to him for being denied the appointment. As told by a former Chief Justice of India, it was purely by chance that he discovered that the report regarding this lawyer being “fond of the bottle” was wholly incorrect. It transpired that as he was, in fact, a teetotaller, his friends had given him the nickname “boozer” and hence the intelligence report described him as one.
When these facts came to light, he was eventually appointed a judge of the High Court. But it was almost a year later that this happened. This lack of transparency has at times also tended to ascribe to “judicial politics”, a role larger than is perhaps warranted. An obvious antidote to this would be to make available information pertaining to the appointment of judges under the Right to Information Act. Unfortunately, the judiciary at the moment appears reluctant to accept it.
In the appointment of judges, the key role is that of the Chief Justice of the court - a judge who came from another High Court to be the Chief Justice of that particular High Court. Many in the legal profession look upon this as a practice that has little to commend itself. To begin with, it leaves senior judges due for consideration for appointment as Chief Justice not knowing if or when and to which High Court they will be transferred to take over as Chief Justice. That apart, when appointed, they would come to head a High Court not knowing their colleagues, the District and Sessions Judges, the other members of the subordinate judiciary, not even the lawyers practising in that court.
Sometimes the local language may be one they do not understand. It invariably takes a couple of months or may be even more, depending upon the size of the court, before they get the feel of and begin to know the court they are presiding over. Inevitably, in such a situation, they have perforce to rely upon their senior and some other colleagues for their help and advice in managing the court.
This being the situation, one wonders why a person who has for years functioned as judge in his own state and thus knows and understands his court should be barred from being Chief Justice there in his due turn. Not surprisingly, appointments of Chief Justices too have begun to be looked upon as another arena for “judicial politics” to flourish.
As regards tackling the problem of arrears in courts and hastening up our justice delivery processes, our present system of administration has clearly not been able to devise steps to bring about any significant improvement. Therefore, there is need to consider innovative ideas to deal with this situation.
One that suggests itself is the concept of having some senior and experienced lawyers to deal with a particular category of cases as part-time judges. Being over the age of superannuation of judges should be no bar in their case. After all, if lawyers can continue with their flourishing practice well into ripe age where lies the problem in having them decide some cases too? The category of cases that they may be called upon to deal with and the method and terms of their appointment as part-time judges can be worked out.
Next to consider is whether in the context of the workload in our courts, can we really afford the luxury of providing for three appeals - one to the District Judge, then to the High Court and finally to the Supreme Court? What if the court of the District Judge were to be the trial court with an appeal from its decision to the High Court? In other words, do away with the judicial courts below the District Judge. This would not only cut out one appeal but would also provide a trial court manned by senior and more experienced persons.
These are some ideas to generate a debate for new thinking on how to make our justice delivery system speedy and more effective. The writer is a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad
The above article appeared in The Tribune, Friday the 25th April 2008.
In one way, CJ is correct in saying that RTI is not applicable to his office. I have understood that he is asking "What a common man or an ordinary citizen has to do with my(CJ) office?"
On the other hand, he has a responsibility of directing the issue/RTI petition/query to the respective person/department concerned.