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In a significant turnaround, the Supreme Court on July 6 observed that the Chief Justice of India should come under Right to Information Act (RTI). This is the first time that the top court has taken such a stand. Earlier it had not agreed with the conclusions reached by the Central Information Commission and several high courts that being a public authority, the CJI’s office was under legal obligation to disclose all facts and correspondence demanded by anybody through an RTI application and fell under the RTI Act. But the department responsible for disclosing such information in the top court appealed to the SC itself.

While batting for transparency and accountability in constitutional posts, and observing that all constitutional posts and people manning them fall under the RTI, the apex court bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy made special references to the Chief Justice of India and the governors. While talking about the CJI office, the court said that it had nothing to conceal and things were pretty open.

The issue came up when the court was hearing a batch of petitions which had raised objection to a 2011 order of the Bombay High Court. The High Court had ruled that the Goa governor’s office must disclose his report to the president on the prevailing political scenario in the state in 2007. The then leader of the opposition Manohar Parrikar wanted to access the report under the RTI Act.

The counsel for the centre wanted the petition to be tagged along with the matter lying before the constitution bench, which is yet to examine if the Supreme Court is amenable to the RTI Act. He did not agree with the Bombay HC order, saying constitutional authorities must be kept away from RTI Act. But the Court did not agree.

The matter will again be taken up by the Supreme Court in the third week of August.

—India Legal Bureau

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