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SC gags CIC order in judges' appointment case

December 04, 2009 12:44 IST

Giving relief to itself, the Supreme Court, on Friday, stayed the Central Information Commission's direction asking it to make public information pertaining to appointment of three judges to the apex court by superseding senior judges.

The apex court also stayed another CIC's order which had directed disclosure of communication between chief justice of India and Justice R Raghupathy of Madras High Court on alleged interference by a union minister in a sub-judice matter.

The Special Leave Petition filed by the apex court against the CIC's direction was mentioned by Attorney General G E Vahanvati before a Bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and Deepak Verma which issued notice to the RTI applicant on whose plea the CIC had passed the direction. The court sought the reply within three weeks and granted another two weeks for filing of rejoinder. The attorney general along with advocate Devadatt Kamat sought stay on the CIC's direction saying several important question of law arise in the matter which required urgent hearing.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for RTI applicant S C Aggrawal, was present in the court when the matter came up.The Supreme Court had on December 1 moved before itself a petition challenging the order of CIC which had directed it to divulge information relating to appointment of judges to the apex court and communication between chief justice of India and Justice Raghupathy.

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 were filed. The petition was moved by the Supreme Court Registry assailing the CIC's order contending that the material (information) 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 had rejected the apex court's plea that all the information with CJI cannot be revealed under 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 apex court judges who superseded their seniors.

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. This was allegedly objected to by the Prime Minister's Office, according to the petition.

The CIC in a separate 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 a decision in a case of his, and the complete correspondence with chief justice of India in the matter. Justice Raghupathy had alleged in an open court a few months ago that the union minister, through his lawyer, spoke to him on telephone seeking favours in a case being probed by CBI.

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