RTI VS. JUDICARY

The Right to Information Act, 2005 has been probably the most discussed law of the recent times and also has given much more power to the people than any other law. Its basic aim is "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority" RTI stands for Right to Information. Right to Information is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19 (1) says that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. As early as in 1976, the Supreme Court said in the case of Raj Narain vs State of UP, that people cannot speak or express themselves unless they know. Therefore, right to information is embedded in article 19. In the same case, Supreme Court further said that India is a democracy. People are the masters. Therefore, the masters have a right to know how the governments, meant to serve them, are functioning. Further, every citizen pays taxes. Even a beggar on the street pays tax (in the form of sales tax, excise duty, etc) when he buys a piece of soap from the market. The citizens therefore, have a right to know how their money was being spent. These three principals were laid down by the Supreme Court while saying that RTI is a part of our fundamental rights. This Act is a consequence of the judicial decisions and the situation today is that it is the judiciary that is being questioned under the RTI Act. This gives a passage to a conflict, between the rights of citizens to obtain information under RTI Act and the right to immunity enjoyed by the judiciary not to disclose information pertaining to appointment of judges, their assets, etc. This debate is indeed a sign of a healthy nation and includes great and fundamental issues. This case was initiated with the Central Public Information officer (Central Public Information Officer), moving the apex court in December 2009, challenging Central information Commission’s (CIC) order directing disclosure of information regarding appointment of judges to Supreme Court and disclosure of communication between erstwhile Chief Justice of India and Justice Raghupathy. The application for information was moved by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal. The Bench comprising of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar were the hon’ble bench to decide this conflict. Justice Reddy in his reference order said that the RTI Act merely recognizes the constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression and independence of judiciary forms part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The independence of the judiciary and the fundamental right to free speech and expression are of great value, and both are required to be balanced.” Whereas, Chief Justice of India, K. G. Balakrishnan has consistently been maintaining that his office does not come under the transparency law and hence cannot part with such information under it.

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