INHIBITOR DESIRE FOR INFORMATION: RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND SUPREME COURT

Shivani Vyas
Yaadvi Dhawan

“The right to know is the right to live”

  – Aruna Roy

INTRODUCTION

Right to Information is that the bulwark of democratic government.This right is essential for the right functioning of the democratic process. Right to Information is an integral a part of the liberty of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, which is considered the primary condition of liberty. It occupies preferred position within the hierarchy of liberties giving protection to other liberties. The expression “freedom of speech and expression” in Article 19(1) (a) has been held to include the right to accumulate information and disseminate the same .The right to information is additionally one of fundamental rights inherent the Constitution. Fundamental Right to Information is that the sine qua non of democracy in India because historically the culture of the chief has been one of secrecy in India since the colonial rule. There has never been constant and resolute access to information. The Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that access to government information was an important a part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.[1]. The right to Information Act was approved by the Parliament in May 2005 and signed by the President in June 2005.[2] The Act replaces the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 which was adopted in January 2003 but never came into force. [3]Under the national Act, all Indian citizens have a right to ask to ask information not only from Central Government public authorities, but also from public authorities under the jurisdiction of the states. This includes local level bodies (called panchayats).Freedom of knowledge has long been a rallying cry of libertarians. But what does freedom of information mean? For several, the phrase it means the overall public files, documents or the knowledge in any form, should be normally accessible to the folks so on know what government in up to. In some jurisdictions, it’s getting to mean not only allowing access to government documents in whatever form they happen to exist, but also opening up the meetings of governments, their advisory bodies and client groups to public scrutiny[4]. Or it’s going to involve access by individuals to files containing information about themselves – and an assurance that the knowledge isn’t getting used for improper or unauthorized purpose Several decisions given by the Supreme Court from time to time are actually liable for the event of legal position with reference to the proper to information in India. These decisions weren’t given specifically within the context of the proper to information, but specifically within the context of the proper to Freedom of Speech and Expression. Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression has been said to be the other or invert side of the proper to understand, and it’s impossible to exercise one without the opposite.[5] The expression “freedom of speech and expression” in Article 19(1) (a) has been held to incorporate the right to acquire information and disseminate the same[6].

CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION

While a few nations perceive Right to Information unequivocally in their Constitutions, in others the judiciary has deciphered the Right to freedom of speech and expression to incorporate the Right to Information. The Right to Information has not expressly been perceived in the Indian constitution. In any case, the Supreme Court of India has deciphered through different choices that the privilege to data is a piece of the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution[7]. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of India has proceeded to express that the Right to know is a fundamental part of the Right to Life. The norms of freedom of information and the affirmation of far reaching resident investment in open undertakings and a functioning common society are fundamental for the full acknowledgment of majority rule government – an arrangement of government receptive to the necessities of its citizens – and to build up a culture of human rights and responsibility. The acknowledgment of right to data is critical to accomplishing these finishes subsequently the requirement for an ensured and administered right to data.  World over enactment on access to data are known as ‘Freedom of Information laws’. In India, advocates for the issue demand utilizing the ‘Rights’ language and considering the enactment the ‘Right to Information Law’. This differentiation may appear to some as playing with semantics. Notwithstanding, there is a significant differentiation that ought not to be overlooked. It must be remembered that ‘Rights’ when all is said in done infer relating obligations. With regards to one side to data the citizen’s entitlement to data throws an obligation on the legislature to guarantee that data looked for is given. Then again, ‘freedom’ doesn’t pass on a solid and away from of obligation on the legislature to give data to general society, as the general population, for this situation, doesn’t hold a ‘right’ to data.

RTI AND JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

The Indian Supreme Court might be standing at a historic point where it has opened doorways for people in general to scrutinize its responsibility by unveiling data relating to the assets and interests of the appointed authorities of the higher judiciary. It very well may be seen that Supreme Court is hesitant to bring the higher Judiciary under the domain of the Right to Information Act.In a leading case of the Cpio, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal[8] The Court found that the Chief Justice’s office is a “public authority” inside the ambit of the Right to Information Act as it plays out various authoritative capacities notwithstanding its adjudicatory job. Access to information was held along its adjudicatory role. The Court held that information relating to submitted assertions and their substance establishes “information” inside the ambit of Section 2 (f) of the Act. The CPIO [s3] contended that accepting that advantage statements comprised “information” under the Act, the revelation would breach fiduciary duty claimed to the appointed authorities. It saw that whether the information is dependent upon open exposure must be settled dependent upon the situation, by weighing contending public interest claims. For instance, the privilege of information may be weighed against the right to privacy. On the first CIC request relating to Collegium decision-making, it coordinated its CPIO to revaluate the solicitation, however by considering the protests, assuming any, by outsiders, as specified under Section 11(1) of the RTI Act. On the second CIC request relating to individual resources, the Court maintained the Delhi High Court judgment and coordinated the CPIO to uncover the applicable information to SC Agarwal.

SC JUDGMENT ON RTI ACT

When Supreme Court of India preferred to appeal against the judgment of Single Judge of High Court of Delhi[9] in Secretary General, SUPREME COURT OF INDIA V. SUBHASH C. AGARWAL. This is a landmark case that determines the balance between the rights to information guaranteed to all individuals with the principle of confidentiality. It focuses on transparency in all government institutions. The Delhi High Court upheld an earlier order of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), whereby CIC directed Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) [s4] of the Supreme Court to furnish information sought by the respondent in the present case, under the Right to Information Act, 2005.[10] In a significant statement given in an interview to leading news channel of India, Chief Information Commissionerat the CIC hearing, the advocate representing the Court was chided by the CIC for its vague response, and also warned that a ₹25,000 penalty could be imposed on the CPIOfor having delayed the response.Wajahat Habibullah has remarked that the judiciary too falls under the purview of the Right to Information Act. In the famous case of Khanapuram Gandaiah v. Administrative Officer & Ors[11] Supreme Court held that judicial officers are not bound to give their reason for judgment. This is also doesn’t seem to be correct because the judiciary is not expressly excluded in u/s 2 (h) and 8 of RTI Act. I suggest that the definition of public officer under RTI Act cover the judicial officer well within its purview. The office of the Chief Justice of India will come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court ruled on the case. Five-member DC bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi agreed in principle to share information but on a case-to-case basis and subject to RTI safeguards. Neither is RTI under Article 19 nor is the right to privacy absolute,” Justice Chandrachud added, saying that all judges and the CJI hold “constitutional positions”. The issue dates back to 2007 when Subhash Chandra Aggarwal, RTI activist, filed a plea in HC seeking details of judges’ assets, but the information was denied. In 2009, Agrawal filed an RTI application in the Supreme Court’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO). He had sought details regarding the appointments of three SC judges: justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu and A.K. Ganguly.His judgment explicitly explained that information which is of immense public interest only needs to answer hence, fabricating the lesser chances of getting misused. Apart from opportunities to get misused this decision gave the classic instance for all other bodies and authorities to declare itself under the public authority, which will help to bring transparency In PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES vs Union of India [12]Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice B.M. KhareIt was held that “Right to Information is a facet of the freedom of ‘speech and expression’ as contained in article 19(1) (a) of the constitution of India. Right to Information, thus, indisputably is Fundamental Right.

CONCLUSION

Judicial independence doesn’t mean that judges are above the law”- Lord MacKay.” RTI law may be a tool, because it offers claim and therefore the mechanism to get data from the govt.Bureaucratic habits also as administrative practices in India are built up over decades due to traditions and British colonial rule. Indeed, it’s to some extent still true that India is battling administrative system.It is again hard to digest that why the upper judiciary is such a lot insisted for creating itselfout of the realm of Right to Information Act because only those that are guilty of errors, incompetence, misbehavior, dereliction of duty and malpractice could also be concerned and need that the very fact concerning such matters aren’t made public.


[1]State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain and Others [(1975) 4 SCC 428. Also see S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 149); See Government of India, Report of the Working Group on Right to Information and Promotion of Open and Transparent Government, May 1997.

[2] Right to Information Act, No. 22 of 2005. http://persmin.nic.in/RTI/WebActRTI.htm.

[3] Freedom of Information Act 2002, Act No. 5 of 2003, 6 January 2003.

[4] Chaudhry, Sharmendra, Right to Information in India (February 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1758022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1758022.

[5]Chaudhry, Sharmendra, Right to Information in India (February 8, 2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1758022 .

[6] State of U.P. v Raj Narain.

[7] Tiwari, Shishir & Ghosh, Gitanjali. (2018). Social Media and Freedom of Speech and Expression: Challenges before the Indian law.

[8]W.P. (C) 288/200916.

[9] The Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash

Chandra Agarwal, W.P. (C) no. 288/2009; judgment pronounced on Sep. 02, 2009.

[10] Sec. 8(1) (j) of Right to Information Act, 2005.

[11] AIR 2010 SC 615.

[12] (AIR 2004 SC 1442).


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