Friday, January 6, 2012

CIC asks SC to disclose info on judges' appointment procedure

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that the procedure for the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts, or a decision to bring about any changes in it, will be available to people under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“The procedure of appointment of judges or any proposal for modifying that procedure should necessarily be available in the public domain so that the citizens know what is transpiring among the major stake holders. In this case, the Government of India and the CJI, in respect of such a vital matter as the appointment of judges to the High Courts and Supreme Court of India,” Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said.

In a significant decision, the transparency panel directed the Supreme Court’s registry to disclose the information pertaining to the draft of the revised memorandum of procedure of appointment of judges in higher courts given by the Law Minister to the then chief justice of India, and the response from the CJI on the said draft.

RTI activist Subhash C Agrawal had sought the information on correspondence exchanged between former CJI K G Balakrishnan and the law minister which the SC’s registry refused to part with contending that the file was not available with it.

“The claim that the said the file containing the correspondence between the Ministry of Law and Justice, and the CJI is not available with the registry may be true; but it does not clarify if this is available anywhere else in the Supreme Court, such as, in the office of the CJI or not. Therefore, the CPIO must look for this information once again and, if found, provide to the Appellant. We direct the CPIO to do so within 10 working days of getting this order,” the CIC said. Mishra agreed to the view taken by the SC’s registry that all information relating to the in-house procedure of the Supreme Court and vigilance matters relating to the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court should not be disclosed, but, it cannot be acceded to every information held in the office of the CJI, and should not be disclosed.

“Acceptance of this argument would virtually mean the complete exclusion of the CJI from the scope of the RTI Act which certainly is not the case. Had the intent of the legislature been so, there would have been an express provision in the law to exclude the office of the CJI from the operation of the RTI Act,” the CIC said.



The procedure of appointment of judges and any proposal for its modification should be in public domain, the central information commission (CIC) has held.

The CIC said this while directing the Supreme Court to disclose communication exchange between chief justice of India and the law ministry on the question of proposed changes in appointment procedure for judges.


"The procedure of appointment of judges or any proposal for modifying that procedure should necessarily be available in the public domain so that the citizens know what is transpiring among the major stake holders, in this case, the Government of India and the CJI, in respect of such a vital matter as the appointment of judges to the High Courts and Supreme Court of India," chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra said in an order.

Rejecting the arguments of the Supreme Court that the information related to judges' appointment cannot be disclosed as there is a stay, the commissioner said a distinction needs to be made between the process of appointment of an individual as a judge and the procedure for making such appointments.

The case relates to plea of activist Subhash Agrawal seeking disclosure of Law Ministry's draft of revised memorandum of procedure of appointment of judges in higher courts and the related exchange of communication between the then chief justice of India K G Balakrishnan and the law minister.

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