The Supreme Court on Monday filed an appeal before itself challenging a Delhi high court ruling that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was covered by the Right to Information (RTI) Act. By doing so, the apex court has raised the broader issues of conflict of interest and of whether judges can judge themselves.

The Delhi high court had on 12 January held that the office of CJI came under the purview of the RTI Act. It rejected a Supreme Court appeal saying judicial independence was not a judge’s personal privilege, but a responsibility.

Rajeev Dhavan, a senior Supreme Court advocate, said the apex court should have gracefully accepted the high court judgement.

The high court verdict was seen by some as a setback to CJI K.G. Balakrishnan, who had maintained that his office did not come under the transparency law and that he was not under any obligation to disclose any information.

The petition in the Supreme Court was filed by advocate Devdutt Kamat on behalf of the apex court’s registry. The case will be argued by attorney general G.E. Vahanvati. The matter will be posted for hearing shortly.

The Supreme Court has sought an immediate stay on the high court’s judgement and asked for it to be set aside on the ground that the lower court had erred in holding that correspondence between CJI and other members of the higher judiciary could be sought under the RTI Act. The appeal argues that information held by CJI is sensitive in nature and that its revelation would hurt the judiciary’s independence.

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June 2021