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Supreme Court to rule on SOP office tomorrow under RTI law



New Delhi The Supreme Court will deliver its petition verdict on Wednesday challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to enforce the Office of the Chief Justice of India (STI) under an Act on the Right to Information (RTI).

A two-judge, five-judge verdict led by Chief Judge Ranjani Gogoi will deliver the verdict at 2pm. Other members of the bench are Areastis NW Ramana, DJ Chandrachood, Depak Gupta and Sanjiv Kana.

The announcement of the verdict was announced on the Apex Court's official website on Tuesday afternoon.

A five-judge panel on April 4 upheld its ruling on appeals filed in 2010 by the Supreme Court secretary general and his central public information officer against orders from the high court and the Central Information Commission (FIC).

The judicial office, headed by the chief court, ended the hearing, saying no one wants a "system of opacity", but the judiciary cannot be destroyed in the name of transparency.

"Nobody wants to stay in the dark or keep anyone in the dark," it says. "The question is drawing. In the name of transparency, you cannot destroy the institution. "

In a landmark judgment on January 10, 2010, the Delhi High Court ruled that the Office of the Chief Justice of India falls under the Right to Information Act (RTI), saying judicial independence is not a judge's privilege but a responsibility thrown upon him.

The 88-page verdict was then considered a personal failure by the then STI, KG Balakrishnan, who opposed disclosure of information about judges under the RTI Act.

The high court's verdict was delivered by three judges, composed of Chief Judge AP Shah (retired) and Judges Vikramity Sen and S. Muralidar. The court dismissed the Supreme Court's plea alleging that the adoption of the SPP office under the RTI Act would "undermine" judicial independence.

Justice Sen has retired as a judge of the Apex court, while Justice Murlidar is a sitting judge of the high court.

The move to bring the PIA office to transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S Agrawal. His lawyer, Prashant Bushan, submitted to the Supreme Court that although the Apex court should not have tried its own cause, it was hearing appeals for "doctrine of necessity".

The lawyer described the judiciary's reluctance to divide information under the information law for information as "unhappy" and "disturbing", asking: "Do judges live in a different universe?"

He argued that the Apex court has always advocated transparency in the functioning of other state bodies, but develops cold feet when its own problems require attention.

Referring to the provisions on RTIs, Mr Busan said they also deal with exceptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always "outweigh" personal interests if the person concerned is delayed or public function.

Dealing with "judicial independence", he said the Judicial Commission's National Accountability Act was suitable for protecting the judiciary from interference by the executive, but that did not mean the judiciary was freed from "public scrutiny".

"This is not independence from responsibility. The independence of the judiciary means that it should be independent of the executive and not independent of the general public. People have a right to know what public authorities are doing, "Bushan said.

The panel's deliberations on the appointment and re-examination of judges or lawyers should be publicly disclosed, and information may be shared by the RTI on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the greater public interest, the lawyer said.

The bench says that people have been making decisions of late and do not want to become judges for fear of negative publicity.

"In the interaction, the reason seems to be the possibility of negative inputs, whether right or wrong, being entered into the public domain," he observed.

In such a case, in addition to the loss of a judge and reputation, one's professional and family life is badly affected, he said.

The Apex court said it had made changes to the functioning of the collegial system and said members had now started communicating with potential candidates.

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