NEW DELHI: Even before the Delhi High Court could decide its appeal against an order of Central Information Commission (CIC) to make public assets of judges, the Supreme Court on Tuesday again moved the HC challenging another CIC order to make public how the CJI dealt with a complaint against a sitting judge of Allahabad HC.
If parliamentarians are up in arms against law minister Veerappa Moily for proposing in the Judges Assets Bill to keep information about the wealth of judges out of the RTI Act, this SC petition could be an argument in support of the apprehension that there could be harassment of a judge at the hands of a litigant. This is what the SC is projecting in its petition before the Delhi HC.
After Allahabad HC dismissed his case, the sore litigant P K Dalmia sent several complaints to the CJI against the judge who decided the case against him. Then, he approached the SC seeking to know the fate of his complaints and whether any action had been taken.
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court refused to entertain Dalmia’s request on the ground that the information sought was not available with the registry and that the information was not held by or under the control of any public authority.
This was the identical reason given by the SC while refusing S C Agrawal’s plea to make public the assets declared by judges under the existing in-house mechanism.
The Judges Assets Bill, which could not be introduced in Parliament on Monday following widespread opposition, proposes to make CJI declare his assets to the President, other SC judges to CJI and similar provision for HC judges. The MPs had specifically demanded that the assets be brought under the purview of RTI.
Dalmia then approached the CIC, which on July 16 held that “the Chief Justice of India and Registry are one and the same institution and information available with the CJI would be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court of India”. The SC said the CIC’s reasoning was erroneous as CJI was not a public authority under the definition of RTI Act and hence CJI could not be equated with the Supreme Court Registry.
“The information sought for was not in the public domain and hence could not be accessed under the RTI Act,” the SC said in its petition before the Delhi HC.