Center on back foot regarding RTI Act

Parvaiz Sultan | New Delhi

With the aim to bring transparency in the system, the Centre found itself on the back foot. The Government on Tuesday said in the Delhi High Court that in view of the public interest, the Right to Information (RTI) Act had been initiated but not for some individual's concerns.

While hearing a petition filed by the Union Government seeking quashing of an order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) asking to produce the files connected to the transfer of Chief Justices and High Courts, Sanjeev Kumar Dubey, counsel appearing for the Centre, said the transfer of judges are ordered by the President after due consultation with Chief Justice of India. "The consultation between the President of India and the CJI and other connected papers cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information Act," Dubey submitted before Justice S Ravindra Bhat. "The reasons, which are vague with regard to challenge the transfer of High Court judge, have been considered and settled in view of the judgment by SC in 1994. The locus is also important before disclosing those information," Dubey also contended. Following a brief hearing, the court posted the matter for February 18. Seeking the direction of the High Court for quashing of the order, the Centre in its petition has also stated that the Constitutional authorities are not the public authorities with the meaning of RTI Act. "The constitutional authorities like President of India, CJI an other judges, Chief Justices of High Courts and other judges of high Courts and other authorities are outside the purview of the RTI Act," the petition says. Earlier, in 2007 Shurti Singh Chauhan, moved an application before CIC and Ministry of Law and Justice seeking the details of transfer of judges of various High Courts including that of Chief Justice. She also sought a list of all the files dealing with the transfer under RTI Act. However, referring the provision of section eight of RTI Act, it was refused. Later, when she approached the joint secretary of the Ministry of Law and Justice, her application was partly allowed and provided the list of judges transferred and also directed the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to specify the reasons for rejection of her plea pertaining to details of transfer order. In its reply, CPIO responded that those details were covered under section of eight (e) and hence could not be provided. But not satisfied with the joint secretary's reply, the CIC directed the CPIO to produce the files connected with the information asked by the applicant for commissioner's exclusive personal.