Sunday, February 5, 2023

Supreme Court reserves its verdict on plea seeking details of Collegium meet

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The Supreme Court has 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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