No RTI Query Can Lie With Regard to Judicial Decisions

November 22, 2017

The Registrar, Supreme Court of India v. R S Misra

Date of Judgment: November 21, 2017

In the instant case, the Delhi High Court has rendered an in-depth analysis of RTI applications against any decision passed by the Supreme Court. The Court has also ruled that RTI Act does not prevail over the Supreme Court Rules (SCR).

Facts– In this case, the Respondent was holding the post of Postgraduate Teacher and his services were terminated on allegations of sexual harassment against him. The Respondent challenged his termination before the Central Administrative Tribunal thereafter before the High Court and Supreme Court. However, the Respondent’s challenge was dismissed by all the Forums. Thereafter, the Respondent in 2010 sought information by way of an RTI (Right to Information) application as to why his petition before the Supreme Court was dismissed and in the application, the Respondent stated that the said SLP (Special Leave Petition) had been decided against the principles of natural justice.

The instant writ petition has been preferred by the Registrar of Supreme Court against the decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC), wherein the Commission CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) to provide information

Petitioner’s submission– That access to documents filed on the judicial side can only be obtained through the mechanism of Supreme Court Rules (for short “SCR”) and that the provisions of the RTI Act cannot override the SCR.

Respondent’s reply– That as the SCR and the Right to Information Act, 2005 co-exist, it is the citizens’ prerogative to choose under which mechanism he would like to obtain information. She clarified that as both the laws, i.e. the RTI Act and SCR were consistent, the applicant had the prerogative of choosing the law under which he wanted to obtain information.

Bench’s Verdict

The Delhi High Court in the case took a strong note of the Respondent’s RTI application seeking information relating to Supreme Court’s decision in the case. The Court in this context made the following observations:

  1. That where there is no information to be given or applicant is seeking non-existent information or where the query is inherently absurd or bordering on contempt, the CIC should not have directed the petitioner to supply information.
  2. That a Judge speaks through his judgments or orders passed by him. A Judge cannot be expected to give reasons other than those that have been enumerated in the judgment or order. If any party feels aggrieved by the order/judgment passed by a Judge, the remedy available to such a party is to challenge the same by a legally permissible mode.
  3. That no litigant can be allowed to seek information through an RTI application or a letter on the administrative side as to why and for what reasons the Judge had come to a particular decision or conclusion.
  4. That there is no inherent inconsistency between SCR and RTI Act as both enable the third party to obtain the information on showing a reasonable cause for the same. Since both RTI Act and the SCR aim at dissemination of information, the RTI Act does not prevail over the SCR.
  5. That if any information can be accessed through the mechanism provided under another statute, then the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to. Neither the Preamble of the RTI Act nor does any other provision of the Act disclose the purport of the RTI Act to provide additional mode for accessing information with the public authorities which has already formulated rules and schemes for making the said information available.
  6. That in the present case, maintaining two parallel machinery: one under SCR and the other under the RTI Act, would clearly lead to duplication of work and unnecessary expenditure, in turn leading to clear wastage of human resources as well as public funds.
  7. That dissemination of information under the SCR is a part of judicial function, exercise of which cannot be taken away by any statute. Further the SCR would be applicable with regard to the judicial functioning of the Supreme Court whereas for the administrative functioning of the Supreme Court, the RTI Act would be applicable.
  8. That the legislature is not competent to take away the judicial powers of the Court by statutory prohibition. The legislature cannot make law to deprive the courts of their legitimate judicial functions conferred under the procedure established.
  9. That the RTI Act does not provide for an appeal against a Supreme Court judgment/order that has attained finality. That queries under the RTI Act would be maintainable to elicit information like how many leaves a Hon’ble Judge takes or with regard to administrative decision a Judge takes. But no query can shall lie with regard to a judicial decision/function.

The entire case can be accessed here.

About the Author

Shilpi Sharan

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Shilpi Sharan is the Editor at Vakilno1.com – an Advocate with extensive knowledge in myriad fields of Law. She has a flair of writing and has legal publications in national and international law magazines to her credit. She focuses on legal research and aims at raising public awareness of laws in India.