Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Delhi High Court order dismissing plea seeking details of Collegium Meet

The Supreme Court has rejected the plea that challenged the order of the Delhi High Court which dismissed petition seeking details of the collegium meet that took place on December 12,2018.

A bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar said that there might have been a discussion during the collegium meet but no final decision was taken.

The bench said that “Some discussions might have taken place, but they cannot be said to be final decision. Only final resolution considered decision. 

The court further said that Collegium is a multi member body whose decision is a resolution. The consultation (of the Collegium in that meeting) was not concluded and was, therefore, adjourned.

The Court clearly said that it is only the final discussion of the Collegium which is needed to be uploaded on the Supreme Court website and not the discussions which happen within the Collegium. 

The judgment was rendered on a plea by activist Anjali Bhardwaj who argued that information cannot be denied on the basis of assertion that it does not exist.

As per the petition there were multiple documents, including official records, reference the agenda for the collegium meeting.

In the plea filed through the advocate Prashant Bhushan it is stated that the information in respect to the appointments and recommendations by the Supreme Court Collegium cannot be regarded as a protected class of documents.

The lawyer further added that any information relevant to public interest cannot be covered under the veil of secrecy.

The Supreme Court had earlier reserved its verdict in a plea that challenges order of the Delhi High Court on the details of the Supreme Court Collegium meeting held on December 12, 2018 which was never made public.

A plea by activist Anjali Bhardwaj arguing that information cannot be denied on the bland assertion that it does not exist was put before a bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar.

The plea filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan said that the information regarding appointments and recommendations by the Supreme Court Collegium should not be regarded as a protected class of documents, as it is an information which is relevant to public interest.

The order which has been challenged had upheld a decision of the single-judge against the Central Information Commission (CIC)order upholding the stance of the Supreme Court that no disclosure about the meeting can be made since no resolution was passed in that meeting, as the required consultation could not be completed.

In the plea the petitioner said that as on October 3, 2017, the Collegium had resolved to publicise its decisions on its website, whenever recommendations are sent to the government with regard to initial elevation of judges to the High Courts, their appointments as permanent judges, elevation to the post of Chief Justice of High Court, transfer of High Court Chief Justices/judges and elevation to the Supreme Court.

A meeting of the Collegium was held on December 12, 2018, where certain decisions were taken, but no information was put on the website about the same..

On January 10, 2019, a new Collegium which was constituted (without Justice Madan B Lokur) met again and passed a resolution saying that it had met on December 12, 2018 to consider certain and recommendations names for appointment as judges to the Supreme Court and for some transfers.

The petitioner states that it looks obvious that a meeting of Collegium on December 12, 2018 happened with an agenda and some decisions were in fact taken in the meeting.

A Right to Information (RTI) application has been filed by the petitioner with the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the apex court on February 26, 2019.

On March 11, 2019, the CPIO stated that the information sought was held to be not proper by the First Appellate Authority (FAA), and therefore, not relevant.

Another appeal was filed but was rejected on the same count on December 16, 2021.


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