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'Keep CJI's confidential info out of RTI ambit'

Source: PTI
January 25, 2010 16:34 IST
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Former Chief Justice of India, Justice Rajendra Babu said on Tuesday that certain areas, such as confidential and sensitive information gathered by the CJI on the appointment of judges, should be kept outside the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Speaking to PTI in Bengaluru, Justice Babu said as a public authority, the CJI discharges several functions including selection of judges after gathering information from various sources. "When he gets all those information, can he disclose all the information (under RTI)?",he asked.

He recalled an incident during his tenure when he had asked a SC judge whether to appoint a particular person as a judge. "You know what he told me? If you ask me in writing, I will say 'yes' and if you ask me orally, I will say 'no'" "How do you deal with it ? In a situation like that, if I am going to reveal it to the public, will anybody express himself (when one sought opinion on selection) fully ? or with what confidence can they express ?".

"I am of the view that there are certain areas...it should not be made available to the general public. It's not necessary", Justice Babu, a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said. He said information such as institutional decisions by CJI, taken after gathering inputs at different levels, should be kept out of the RTI purview, adding such revelation amounts to "throwing them to the wolves".

"Thereafter you will attack them (those who gave such information), condemn them. Nobody will express freely and frankly. This is one difficulty we have", Justice Babu said. The Delhi High Court recently held the office of the CJI is a public authority that comes within the ambit of the RTI and it is bound to provide information about the declaration of asset details by Supreme Court judges.

Justice Babu said the process of discussions, dealing with "files" and gathering of information and things of such nature should not come under RTI purview. "We think of the independence of judiciary. If you bring them under the control of some other authority, how will the independence of judiciary be maintained ?". Justice Babu, however, saw nothing wrong in public scrutiny of the judiciary. "Public scrutiny...it's good. Let them (the judges) be under scrutiny. But scrutiny by itself will not affect the independence of judges", he said.

He said what's important is how a judge conducted himself in court. "Better if there is peer control; better if there is professional control. People do that way....rather than somebody (scrutinising Judges) who does not have knowledge about it and they will go far beyond a point". "I (a Judge) must command the respect of my colleagues; I must command the respect of my profession. I must be a good Judge; need not be a popular Judge", he said.

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