Civil Appeal No. 10044/2010
section 2(h), 2(2)(ii), 8(1)(j) of Right To Information Act
This case consists of three appeals, which arose from separate orders denying the required access to information under the RTI Act. The first appeal involved a RTI application filed by the respondent on the basis of a newspaper report. The respondent sought the complete correspondence of the Chief Justice of India regarding a Union Minister having allegedly approached Justice R Raghupati of the Madras High Court, through a lawyer, to influence a judicial decision.
The second appeal involved an RTI application to request a copy of documents available to the Supreme Court. This consisted of a communication between the relevant authorities relating to the appointment of various Supreme Court judges, dominant to other senior judges.
The third appeal consisted of an RTI application seeking information on a declaration made by judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justices of the states regarding the assets held by them, or any person dependent on them.
The first two appeals were denied while the third appeal was filed against the judgment of the bench of Delhi High Court, which held that the office of the CJI falls within the term “public authority” under the RTI act.
It was observed that the ‘Court’ falls under the definition of ‘Public Authority’ under section 2(h) of the RTI Act. The CJI is the competent authority under section 2(2)(ii) of the RTI Act. The court further observed that the ‘Supreme Court’ will also include the office of the CJI and the judges. Hence, the office of CJI and the judges is not separate from the Supreme Court.
The Court affirmed that information is understood broadly to mean “material in any form” which is accessible by the public authority and “held by or under the control of any public authority.” The Court observed that any information on a private body, accessible by a public authority under any law, subject to applicable restrictions, will come within its purview. The Court also observed that the expressions “held by or under the control of any public authority” and “information accessible under this Act” are restrictive and reflect the limits to the “right to information” granted under Section 3 of the RTI Act. Hence, the right to information is not an absolute right.
The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India held that the Supreme Court is a “public authority” and hence will fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). The court also held that the Right to Information should not be allowed to be used as a tool of surveillance to scuttle the effective functioning of the judiciary.
1962 AIR 605, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 567
Section 34 and 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996