CJI’s office under the RTI Act

In an era of transparency and clarity , even the top judiciary in India cannot remain aloof as it is now made known that the office of the Chief Justice is a public authority hence the same was falling under the ambit of the RTI Act. However, it is also clarified that such a coverage was not absolute and proper ‘discretion’ had to be exercised and care was to be taken that the said Act could not and should not be used as a tool of surveillance. It is an admitted fact that while judiciary was commanding absolute autonomy and a peculiar standard of functioning , its independence was never to be lost sight of in the heat of exercising the right to RTI.
India was fast moving towards an era of more transparency and resultant accountability in almost every sphere hence even the office of the Chief Justice of India could not remain aloof. It was, however, in the start of the year 2010 itself that Delhi High Court had opined that the office of the Chief Justice of India came within the ambit of the RTI Act . In that, it was spelt out that the judge’s privilege was not the judicial independence, it was a responsibility cast on him or her. So the two were separate entities and not integrated. The pronouncement by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Deepak Gupta that the office of the CJI was a public authority , therefore, upheld the Delhi High Court’s order.
It may also be noted that for the past 12 years , the Apex Court managed to fight to keep the office of the CJI outside the ambit of the RTI but an activist moved the application in the office of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which is an authorised body to act upon complaints received from individuals in respect of not getting desired information from the concerned authorities and institutions as in the year 2007 , the top court had refused to pass on an information to the said complainant . Curiously, Supreme Court had approached itself for relief in the RTI case over an order of the CIC and on November 13 ,a bench which included Justices NV Ramana , DY Chandrachud,
Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna decided the matter against the institution.
In other words, Supreme Court fought a case as one of the litigants. It can safely be called rarest of rare cases when the SC decides in favour of the contentions of the CIC through the activist which had moved the relevant complaint into that office . One thing which further upholds the beauty and the dignity of our judicial system is that the Supreme Court is delivering judgments with one and unanimous view on important matters, the one under reference being the second one after the historic verdict on Ayodhya Ram Mandir case. This further enhances the ultimate trust of the people in our judiciary .
However, this fact too must not be lost sight of that too much transparency and sharing almost all important matters under the RTI Act was tantamount to diluting independence of judiciary. Right to privacy was definitely an important aspect but the same was to be balanced with transparency while dishing out information. It also goes without saying that the judiciary could not function in total isolation as judges enjoyed constitutional posts to discharge public duty . This view was expressed by one of the Justices on the bench , Justice Chandrachud. It also is important that specific reasons behind collegium’s decisions could not be disclosed to uphold the dignity of the judicial process.