Jain case: disclose file, rules CIC
NEW DELHI: In a landmark decision, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Saturday directed the disclosure of the file containing, among other things, the correspondence between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Law Minister on the controversial appointment of Justice Virender Jain as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah ruled that the correspondence contained in the file did not fall under Sec. 8 of the Right to Information Act, which gives exemption from disclosure to certain categories of sensitive information.
The CIC, however, held that Justice Y.K. Sabharwal's July 27, 2006 letter to Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj contained references to a number of persons who were "third parties" to the matter. It was through this letter that the Chief Justice conveyed the decision of the Supreme Court collegium on the appointment of Mr. Justice Jain to the Law Minister.
Mr. Habibullah directed the Principal Information Officer of the Ministry of Law & Justice to invite the third parties concerned to make written or oral submissions on the question of disclosure of information pertaining to them and ascertain if any them had valid objections against disclosure of information relating to them.
The CIC further directed that in the event a valid ground was established, the appellant "may be supplied" with information excluding "the objectionable portion." He ordered the exercise to be completed within a month from the date of his decision. Appellant Subhash Chander Agrawal originally sought the complete file relating to Mr. Justice Jain's appointment from the President's Secretariat.
He asked for copies of all file notings, the opinions of the members of the Supreme Court collegium as well as the correspondence between the President and the Prime Minister.
The President's Secretariat transferred the petition to the Ministry of Law & Justice, which refused the information on grounds of confidentiality and third party interests.
In arriving at his decision, the CIC relied upon a judgment of Justice P.K. Bhagwati who had ruled against granting immunity from disclosure to the correspondence between the Law Minister, the Chief Justice of Delhi and the Chief Justice of India. Said Mr. Justice Bhagwati : "....Today the process of judicial appointments and transfers is shrouded in mystery. The exercise of the power of appointment and transfer remains a sacred ritual whose mystery is confined only to a handful of high priests, namely the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chief Minister of the State, the Law Minister of the Central Government and the Chief Justice of India ... We do not see any reason why this process of appointment and transfer should be regarded as so sacrosanct that no one should be able to pry into it..."
The Hindu : National : Jain case: disclose file, rules CIC