“Explore the Delhi High Court verdict on the Chief Justice of India’s office under RTI Act. While notes, jottings, and draft judgements are exempt, concerns about transparency linger. Learn more about the implications and nuances.”

The only silver lining for the Supreme Court in the Delhi High Court verdict holding that the Chief Justice of India’s office comes within the purview of RTI Act was that it said notes, jottings and draft judgements would not fall within the umbrella of the transparency law. The apex court registry through Attorney General G E Vahanvati had expressed fear that bringing the CJI’s office under the ambit of the Act would compel it to disclose judges’ notes, jottings and draft judgements.

However, the High Court dismissed the contention, saying that the apprehension was misplaced.

“The apprehension of the Attorney General that unless a restrictive meaning is given to section 2(j) of the RTI Act, the notes or jottings by the judges or their draft judgements would fall within the purview of the Act is misplaced,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice A P Shah said.

Maintaining that the notes taken by the judges while hearing a case are meant only for their use and cannot be held to be part of a record “held” by the public authority, the Bench said “even the draft judgement signed and exchanged is not to be considered as final judgement but only tentative view liable to be changed.”

However, the Bench, also comprising Justices Vikramajit Sen and S Muralidhar, made it clear that “if the judge turns in notes along with the rest of his files to be maintained as a part of the record, the same may be disclosed”.

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February 2024