SC moves appeal before itself on judges appointment issue

SC has moved before itself a petition challenging the order of Chief Information Commissioner directing it to make public information pertaining to appointment of three judges to the apex court superseding seniors judges.

Last Updated: Dec 01, 2009, 14:18 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has moved before itself a petition challenging the order of Chief Information Commissioner directing it to make public information pertaining to appointment of three judges to the apex court superseding seniors judges.

The apex court also challenged another CIC`s order which had directed disclosure of communication between Chief Justice of India and Justice Raghupathy of Madras High Court on alleged interference by a union minister in a sub-judice matter.
Interestingly, deviating from the normal practice which was adopted by it in an earlier case on the assets declaration issue, the apex court this time sidelined the Delhi High Court where appeals against the CIC`s order have been filed.

The petition was filed by the Supreme Court Registry assailing the CIC`s order, which has directed the court to divulge the information, contending that the material held by the CJI was kept under fiduciary relationship and should be exempted from being made public under Section 8(1)e of the transparency law.

The same legal issue on whether CJI`s office comes within the ambit of RTI or not is pending before a full bench of the Delhi High Court after a single judge bench had rejected the apex court`s plea that all the information with CJI cannot be revealed under the RTI.

The CIC, in a series of orders, has held that office of the CJI comes within the perview of the RTI Act and information held by the CJI should be revealed.
The Central Information Commission on November 25 had said that appointment of judges is a "public activity" which cannot be withheld from disclosure and asked the apex court registry to make public the records relating to appointment of three justices of the apex court who superseded their seniors.

"The recommendation of appointment of justices is decidedly a public activity conducted in the overriding public interest. However, the plea of seeking exemption under the definition of fiduciary relationship cannot stand, and even if accepted in technical terms, will not withstand the test of public interest," the CIC had said and asked the apex court to provide information within 15 working days.

The Commission had passed the order on a plea of RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal seeking complete correspondence between authorities concerned relating to appointment of Justices H L Dattu, A K Ganguly and R M Lodha superseding seniority of Justices A P Shah, A K Patnaik and V K Gupta as allegedly objected by Prime Minister’s Office.

The plea was rejected by the Registry of Supreme Court, saying it did not have the information and later pleaded before the Commission that it was held in fiduciary relationship with the Chief Justice of India hence cannot be given under the RTI Act.
The CIC in a seperate order had directed the apex court to reveal the name of the Union Minister, who had allegedly approached a judge of the Madras High Court to influence his decision, and the complete correspondence with Chief Justice of India in the matter.

"The information sought in respect of all questions... will now be provided to appellant within 15 days," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had said.

Justice R Raghupathi of the Madras High Court in the open court had a few months ago alleged that a Union Minister, through his lawyer, spoke to him on telephone seeking favours in a case being probed by CBI.

- PTI