"RTI does not override Supreme Court Rules for judicial functions" Delhi HC

Published on 24 Nov 2017 by Team

The Delhi High Court on the 21st of November, delivered a comprehensive judgment holding that the Right To Information Act (RTI) would not override the Supreme Court Rules (SC Rules) when it comes to dissemination of information.

The Supreme Court of India, through its Registrar, had challenged an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), which had directed the apex court to answer the queries of litigant RS Misra as to why his SLP was dismissed.

Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Siddhartha Luthra submitted that the CIC, in a number of previous decisions had repeatedly held that access to documents filed on the judicial side can only be obtained through the mechanism of SC Rules and that the provisions of the RTI Act cannot override them.

image courtesy - news18.com

He also contended that as there is no inconsistency between the RTI Act and the SC Rules, the former will not have an overriding effect.

Representing the respondent, Advocate Deepali Gupta submitted that in accordance with Section 22 of the RTI Act, which is a non obstante clause, the provisions of the RTI Act shall override the SC Rules.

The amicus curiae in the matter Advocate Ramesh Singh also stated that there is no inconsistency between SC Rules and RTI provisions and that Section 22 comes into operation only in case of inconsistency between any other law and the provisions of the RTI Act.

He further submitted that even if the provisions of the SC Rules dealing with dispensation of information are held to be inconsistent with the provisions of RTI Act, then also it is the provision of SC Rules which will prevail.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Manmohan, agreed with the submissions made by Luthra and Singh. At the outset, it was noted,

“It seems strange to this Court that despite the respondent challenging the impugned termination order and allegations of sexual harassment by way of legal proceedings, he not only re-agitated the same issues but also questioned the judicial orders by either filing letters on the administrative side or applications under the RTI Act.”

It also held that the CIC should not have directed the petitioner to supply information.

“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.

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.”

Further, it was held that the non-obstante clause under Section 22 of the RTI does not mean an implied repeal over all statutes, but only an overriding provision in case of an inherent inconsistency. Since both RTI and the SC Rules aim at dissemination of information, the RTI Act does not prevail over the SC Rules.

“This Court is further of the opinion 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 as there is absence of the very basis for invoking the provisions of RTI Act, namely, lack of transparency.”

The Court further stated that the judicial functioning of the Supreme Court is separate from its administrative functioning. The dissemination of information under the SC Rules is a part of judicial function which cannot be taken away by any statute. The SC Rules would be applicable with regard to the judicial functioning of the apex court, whereas for the administrative functioning, RTI would be applicable.

While allowing the appeal, the Court held that where there is no information to be given, or the applicant is seeking non-existent information, or where the query is inherently absurd or bordering on contempt, like in the present case, the CIC should not have directed the petitioner to supply information.

Source - barandbench.com


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