Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan’s recent request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to protect the judiciary from increasingly ‘‘intrusive’’ queries appears to have triggered an exercise to look for options to effect changes in the RTI Act. Following the CJI’s impassioned letter, which said questions asked by chronic litigants about the judiciary could erode its independence, the government has started looking into possible changes in the RTI Act, highly placed sources said.

The exercise will be a tightrope walk as the government is keen to ensure that any change in the Act is not seen as blunting the efficacy of the transparency law. At the same time, it is examining options to limit queries on certain issues, including the process of appointment of judges and correspondence between the CJI and other constitutional authorities.

One of the options being debated in the law ministry is the feasibility of making applicants using the RTI act state the purpose behind their question to the judiciary.

The other option, sure to be welcomed by the judiciary if it actualizes, is to take certain information out of the RTI Act’s purview.

The CJI’s letter had stated that judicial appointments in India were made on the basis of constitution bench judgments of the Supreme Court. He had pointed out that under the prevailing process, the meeting of the collegiums seldom put in writing its views on persons who were rejected for posts of judges in high courts or the apex court.

The CJI also told the PM that secrecy around the selection process of judges was not unique to India.

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February 2024