CITATION – (2020) 5 SCC 481
In this case, three appeals were filed which arose from three applications filed by the respondent, Subhash Chandra Agarwal before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court of India Subhash Chandra Agarwal himself filed a Right to Information Application to CPIO of the Supreme Court of India to furnish information about the complete correspondence of the Chief Justice of India as it was found that the Union Minister had influenced the judicial decision making in the High Court of Madras judge, Justice R. Raghupathi.
The second Application was filed asking to furnish information about correspondence between the Constitutional authorities relating to the appointment of three Supreme Court Judges-, Justice H.L. Dutta, Justice A.K. Ganguly Justice R.M. Lodha which superseded other senior Judges in the hierarchy. In the third Application, it was filed requesting the declaration of assets of judges made by them to Chief Justice and Chief Justice of State High Courts. On the filing of these applications, the CPIO, Supreme Court denied furnishing the information asked in the RTI application by stating that the information sought is available with the registry of Supreme Court of India. On the filing of these applications, the CPIO, Supreme Court denied furnishing the information asked in the RTI application by stating that the information sought is available with the registry of Supreme Court of India. Upon denial of providing information, Subhash Chandra Agarwal filed an appeal to Central Information Commission (CIC), and on 6 January 2009 the Central Information Commission ordered Supreme Court to disclose the information asked in the RTI application and to follow the procedure mentioned under, section 6(3) of Right to Information Act,2005. Not pleased by the order of CIC, the CPIO of the Supreme Court, filed a writ petition before High Court under article 226 of the constitution but it ruled in favor of the respondent Further CPIO took matters to the Supreme Court. The first two appeals were filed in the Supreme Court against the Chief Information Commissioners order which directs access to the requestedinformation. The third appeal w against the order passed by the full bench of Delhi High Court regarding the same.
1. Whether the disclosure of information to the public relating to the office of Chief Justice of India and collegium system amounts to the violation of judicial independence?
2. Whether section 8(1)(j) exempt the information sought in the public interest?
3. Whether the disclosure of the information requested relating to judges would bar or prevent the constitutional authorities from expressing views freely and frankly?
The Court held that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) would constitute a public authority under the RTI Act. It further held that transparency and judicial independence were not in conflict with one another, and that there was a need to balance the right to information and the right to privacy. With respect to the right to privacy and confidentiality under Section 8(1)(f) of the RTI Act, the Court held that while personal information would be entitled to protection from an unwarranted invasion of privacy, conditional access could be granted where a larger public interest was involved. The Court emphasized that public interest would have to be examined in each case to determine the balance between the two. The Court ultimately found that release of information relating to judicial assets was in the greater public interest, but release of information relating to third parties needed to be re-examined after considering the procedure set out in Section 11 of the RTI Act.
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