NEW DELHI, Nov 13 - Observing that judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public authority and falls within the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Pronouncing a landmark verdict, the apex court at the same time said transparency cannot be allowed to run to its absolute and that RTI Act should not be used as a surveillance tool. It also observed there should be a balance between right to privacy and right to information and they have to be treated as �co-equals�
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi unanimously upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court judgement and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the top court.
The high court on January 10, 2010 held that the CJI office comes within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge�s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.
Hailing the apex court verdict, RTI activists said �no one is above the law� and it is a great step towards transparency and building the trust of people in the justice system.
They, however, termed as �extremely unfortunate� and �shocking� the court observation that RTI should not be used as a tool of surveillance.
The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist SC Agrawal over a decade ago. �It is a landmark judgment. I welcome it wholeheartedly,� Agrawal said. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the country is entitled to know what their public servants are doing.
The apex court bench, also comprising Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, ruled that only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment can be disclosed, not the reasons. � PTI