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Thread: RTI Act does not apply to my office: CJI

  1. #49
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    Re: RTI Act does not apply to my office: CJI


    Opinion in dnaindia.com on 6 May 2008:
    DNA - Opinion - In the name of the law - Daily News & Analysis

    By A G Noorani - The writer is an eminent lawyer

    In the name of the law

    The right to information is universal and judges cannot be exempt from public scrutiny

    The citizen is understandably disturbed when he sees conflict between the judiciary and Parliament or the government. The latest in the recent series is particularly worrisome. It affects the people’s right to know, embodied in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

    The Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan told the media on April 19 that the “CJI is not a public servant in the strict sense. He is a constitutional functionary and constitutional authorities are not covered under the RTI.” A fortnight later, on May 5, he accepted that the CJI is indeed a public servant, but argued that he is not a public authority under the RTI. He overlooked, however, that if India’s lawmakers considered judges as public servants for over a century, they would not conceivably have excluded them from the category of public authority in this day and age. The record establishes that.

    To begin with, one of the most important and oldest laws, the Indian Penal Code of 1860 says, in section 21, that the words ‘public servant’ include every judge. For good measure, it adds an explanation which clarifies that the persons it lists ‘are public servants, whether appointed by the government or not’.

    Around Independence, the Prevention of Corruption act, 1947, took over the IPC’s definition of ‘public servant’. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, likewise defines him to include ‘any judge’. The Supreme Court endorsed this in 1991 in the case of the former chief justice of the Madras High Court, K Veeraswami. It categorically rejected his plea that judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are not within the purview of the Prevention of Corruption act.

    It is farthest from our mind that a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court will be immune from prosecution for criminal offences committed during the tenure of his office under the provision of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

    Can the law be different where the citizen’s right to know is involved? The speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee, himself once a distinguished member of the Supreme Court Bar, rightly said on April 21, “My view is that nothing should be held back from the people, except on matters related to security.” Suppression of information affects the credibility of the institution.

    However, the Speaker made an important point which is often overlooked. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the citizen’s right to know, although not expressly embodied in the Constitution, follows inescapably from the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a).

    The right to know is, therefore, enforceable — and, indeed, has been enforced — like any fundamental right on a writ petition to the Supreme Court or a High Court. What the Right to Information Act does is simply to provide a speedy and inexpensive mechanism which is available even in the districts.

    Two former CJIs, Justices JS Verma and VN Khare, expressed strong disagreement with the opinion of Balakrishnan. The Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said on April 22, “No constitutional authority is exempt from the Right to Information Act”. The controversy is particularly unfortunate against the background of an earlier one on disclosure of judge’s assets.

    However, the Report of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Personnel, Law and Justice, tabled in the House on April 28, shows that the CJI’s fears are as unfounded, as his stand on the law is erroneous and dissented from by all others. The Report makes two points. First, and basically, judges do fall within the definition of “public authority” as formulated in the RTI, “Public authority or body… established or constituted by or under the Constitution.” That knocks for a six the argument that as constitutional authorities judges are not covered by the RTI.

    Secondly, the report allays the CJI’s fears completely. The veil of secrecy will not be pierced to expose the judicial deliberations within the Judges’ chambers to the public view at all, but only to their administrative decisions.

    It points out that the judiciary has a dual role: administrative function and judicial decision-making. Except the judicial decision making, all other activities of the administration and the persons included in it are subject to the RTI Act. This, surely, is unexceptionable. It strikes a very fair balance.

    The object of the RTI is to empower the people and enforce accountability. When constitutional authorities like the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha are covered by the RTI, judges cannot claim to be exempt from the people’s concerns. Their right to know is as sacred as the independence of the judiciary.



  2. #50

    I am a public servant: CJI


    I am a public servant: CJI
    reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN 06 May 2008

    NEW DELHI: "I am a public servant," declared Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishanan settling the dust that had arisen over whether or not judges of the Supreme Court and high courts were public servants or not.
    His remarks at the conclusion of the annual conference of Chief Justices of the high courts and the chief ministers had opened a big debate over the status of the judges of the higher and superior judiciary.

    The clarification from the CJI came on the day when the judiciary took the historic first step to allow TV cameras to videograph the “people's court” proceedings held inside the SC's court rooms, which are always out of bound for cameras.

    Speaking to The Times of India, Justice Balakrishnan laughed away the question whether judges of the SC and the HCs were public servants or not.

    “How can any judge argue that he is not a public servant?” he counter questioned. It is a well settled position of law, as laid down in the five-judge constitution bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the Veeraswamy case, that judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court were public servants, he said.

    I am a public servant: CJI-India-The Times of India

  3. #51
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    I am a public servant: CJI


    As reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 6 May 2008:
    I am a public servant: CJI-India-The Times of India


    I am a public servant: CJI


    NEW DELHI: "I am a public servant," declared Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishanan settling the dust that had arisen over whether or not judges of the Supreme Court and high courts were public servants or not.

    His remarks at the conclusion of the annual conference of Chief Justices of the high courts and the chief ministers had opened a big debate over the status of the judges of the higher and superior judiciary.

    The clarification from the CJI came on the day when the judiciary took the historic first step to allow TV cameras to videograph the “people's court” proceedings held inside the SC's court rooms, which are always out of bound for cameras.

    Speaking to The Times of India, Justice Balakrishnan laughed away the question whether judges of the SC and the HCs were public servants or not.

    “How can any judge argue that he is not a public servant?” he counter questioned. It is a well settled position of law, as laid down in the five-judge constitution bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the Veeraswamy case, that judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court were public servants, he said.

  4. #52

    RTI could extend to judges: CJI



    RTI could extend to judges: CJI
    As reported by NDTV CorrespondentSaturday, May 10, 2008 (New Delhi)


    The Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan had created a storm by stating that the judges are constitutional authorities and above the Right to Information Act but on Saturday he took a U-turn.

    He told NDTV that judges are public servants and could come under the RTI, it's only a question of interpretation.

    https://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080049448&ch=5/10/2008%203:24:00%20PM



  5. #53

    RTI could extend to judges: CJI


    RTI could extend to judges: CJI
    AS Reported By Neha Khanna in NDTV, Saturday, May 10, 2008 (New Delhi)

    In an exclusive interview to NDTV, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has said that judges are public servants and could come under the Right to Information Act (RTI), adding that it was only a question of interpretation.

    Earlier, Justice Balakrishnan said that judges are constitutional authorities and above the purview of the RTI, which triggered a nationwide debate.

    On being asked about his recent remarks that judges do not come within the purview of RTI act, Justice Balakrishnan said that whatever he said was as per the definition of the public authority in the RTI Act.

    ''The chief justices or the judges may not come, it is a question of interpretation. If somebody says it comes, it is all right. But judges are public servants, I have absolutely no doubt whether judges are public servants,'' he said.

    ''Judges are public servants. But as public authority, it is the institution, body or any organization, that is the definition. I am happy that this Lok Adalat is being organised by the Delhi High Court,'' he added.

    Justice Balakrishnan said that the 1991 ruling of the Supreme Court that describes judges as public servants and a recent parliamentary panel's statement that the judges do come in the purview of the RTI are debatable issues.

    ''The public servant decision is correct and we don't dispute that,'' he said.

    Justice Balakrishnan was in Delhi High court inaugurating a lok adalat.

  6. #54
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    Re: RTI Act does not apply to my office: CJI


    WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA defenitely deserve a more specific answer from our Hon'ble CJI

  7. #55

    Right to Info Act covers judiciary too: Habibullah


    Right to Info Act covers judiciary too: Habibullah
    As reported by Divyamanu Chaudhry / CNN-IBN Fri, May 16, 2008

    FOR THEIR INFORMATION: Habibullah says Right to Information doesn't
    exempt judiciary.

    New Delhi: The Right to Information Act (RTI) is applicable to the
    judiciary, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has said.

    Habibullah's statement is important, as the Chief Justice of India, K
    G Balakrishnan, recently said that it was "debatable" whether the
    judiciary came under the purview of the RTI Act. Before that
    Balakrishnan had said that constitutional authorities did not come
    under the purview of the Act.

    Habibullah, in an interview to CNN-IBN, disagrees with that view. "It
    (RTI) Act) is of course applicable to the judiciary, the legislature
    and the executive. It applies to all organs of the Government and all
    constitutional bodies," he said.

    Habibullah's statement comes before a full bench of the Central
    Information Commission studies whether the judiciary comes under the
    Act's purview.

    He clarified that he doesn't want to lock horns with the judiciary on
    every issue but differences cannot be avoided. "In certain finer
    points there will be differences and they need to be sorted out in the
    manner this Act evolves," he said.

    Habibullah want to avoid confrontation but it is apparent from his
    statement he is reluctant to buy easy peace with the judiciary. He is
    convinced that no institution should be outside the purview of the RTI
    Act, so the judiciary will have to convince him why an exception needs
    to for it.

    Right to Info Act covers judiciary too: Habibullah

  8. #56
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    Re: RTI Act does not apply to my office: CJI


    We are not interested in his bargaining power or judiciary's responses. As per the RTI Act it is complementary to the Freedom of expression aspect of our Constiotution. The porovisions of RTI Acti is equally applicable to everyone who is governmened by the Constitutions of India. Let us wait and watch the onegoing cases were the CIC is expected to give his judgment.

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