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Delhi HC allows SC appeal vs CIC order to maintain records of reserved judgments

A Division Bench of the Delhi high court comprising the chief justice G Rohini, and Justice Jayant Nath today set aside the order of the Single Judge of the high court directing the Supreme Court registry to comply with the Central Information Commission’s directive to maintain records regarding the judgments pending, after being reserved by the benches.

In Registrar, Supreme Court of India vs Commodore Lokesh K Batra and others, the Division Bench, through Chief Justice G Rohini, held that an applicant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has access to only such information that is available and existing with the public authority subject to the exemptions in Section 8.

The bench agreed with the respondent that Section 19(8)(a) of the Act empowers the CIC or SIC to require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of the Act including by providing access to information if so requested in a particular form. However, it held that the word “form” used in the provision refers to the definitions of information and right to information under the Act which provides that an information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought.

Therefore, the bench held that the requirement is only to maintain the records in a manner which facilitates the right to information under the Act, which means the right to information, which is held by any public authority. Therefore, the bench said it did not find any other provision under the Act which would enable issuing of direction to the public authority to collate the information in the manner in which it is sought by the applicant.

The bench relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in CBSE vs Aditya Bandopadhyay and Others [(2011) 8 SCC 497] which has been criticized by the RTI activists, for its narrow interpretation of the RTI Act. While AS Chandhiok appeared for the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan argued for Commodore Lokesh Batra, who was also the original RTI applicant, who unsuccessfully sought information regarding details of cases in which judgments were reserved in the Supreme Court.

While the high court’s division bench may be correct in holding that the CIC has no power to issue direction to collate information in a specific manner, as desired by the applicant, the ordinary litigant may be surprised why at all the Supreme Court could not collate information regarding the number of cases in which judgments have been reserved, and how long.

The high court’s judgment does not reveal any reasons. Surely, the Supreme Court must come forward to reveal information on this aspect proactively, without forcing Commodore Batra to seek remedy through one more appeal in the Supreme Court.

The judgment can be read here.

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