Shedding judiciary’s reluctance to come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act by agreeing to extend the Right To Information Act to the office of the Chief Justice of India and Governors should be welcomed. While it would raise the bar for transparency in the judiciary, it would also effectively check politicking by Governors. This would mean that the political appointees would be under pressure to recommend President’s rule in a state only when there are reasonable grounds for it. The Governors would also have to apply due diligence before taking major decisions. This is for the first time that a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy has publicly expressed an opinion in favour of it.
This observation is a marked departure from the earlier stand of the apex court that it is beyond the ambit of the transparency law. Indeed, the interest of transparency will certainly be better served if all Constitutional functionaries, including the Chief Justice of India and Governors, were to come under the purview of Right to Information.
It is significant that the issue whether the CJI must make public under RTI information regarding the selection of judges and his/her correspondence with the government has been taken up by the Constitution bench of the apex court, and a decision is still pending. Already the Delhi High Court had ruled that the CJI was indeed a public functionary and had asked the apex court to make public the wealth of its judges.
The Central Information Commission has also declared the CJI office as a public authority in order to bring it under the RTI Act. The Court observation came on a bunch of petitions challenging a Bombay High Court order declaring the governor’s office as a public authority and directing the Goa Raj Bhavan to make public the Governor’s report sent to the President on the political situation in the state.
The then leader of the opposition in the Goa assembly, Manohar Parrikar had sought the information under RTI. Bringing the CJI under the Act would mean giving the public access to reasons behind judicial appointments or rejections, why a particular judge has been selected or ignored, who said what for or against a judge’s elevation.
How is judiciary opening up to scrutiny would be clear from the observations of the Bench, “What is there to hide? There is nothing to hide for the Chief Justice of India. There is no secretive business of the chief justice and the office of CJI should be brought within RTI’s ambit. Why governor and CJI should not be brought under RTI?”