Judges’ appointment info can’t be disclosed under RTI, AG tells SC

However, The AG contended that some other info could be shared with the public provided public interest outweighed judge’s right to privacy.

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Attorney General KK Venugopal on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that any information regarding judges’ appointments and correspondence with the government on it cannot be shared with information-seekers under the RTI as it would compromise the judiciary’s independence.

But other information such as whether all judges have filed their assets with the CJI or not could be shared provided public interest outweighed the judge’s right to privacy and reputation, he said.

The AG was arguing a petition of the Supreme Court Registrar General against a Delhi High Court order ruling that the CJI’s office was a public authority under the RTI and would hence have to share all information that it held with information-seekers. Among the other things, which the court is considering is whether information published in newspapers about alleged attempts to influence judges etc can be shared with the public.

“The judgement doesn’t seem to have considered the impact of revealing information under the RTI on the independence of the institution,” the AG said.

He completely ruled out sharing any sensitive information regarding appointments, supersessions, transfers, reasons behind the rejection of candidatures for the post etc. He said that these would impinge on the independence of the judiciary as it would not only destroy a person’s reputation but also affect his judicial work. Besides, he said, it would have a chilling effect on consultations with the judges who might be involved in the process not holding forth their views at all for fear of being embarrassed later. Confidentiality cannot be placed ahead of the privilege of the judicial office-holders to speak their mind. The AG, who are arguing for the SC registrar general who had filed an appeal against the high court order, however, left the door open for other information such as who had filed their assets with the CJI’s office and who hadn’t on a case to case basis.

(This story originally appeared on The Economic Times)

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