‘I Don’t See Any Need To Add To Exemptions In RTI’



The CIC on his recent remark that if the legislature had its way, there would have been an express provision in the RTI Act to exclude the office of the CJI Anuradha Raman Interviews Satyananda Mishra / PUBLISHED IN THE OUTLOOK

Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Satyananda Mishra recently remarked that if the legislature had its way, there would have been an express provision in the law to exclude the office of the Chief Justice of India from the RTI Act. In an interview to Anuradha Raman, he explains the reasons for his controversial pronouncement. Excerpts:

You are referred to as the architect of the recent order on making the procedure of appointment of judges public?

We passed an order (last week) because every information is important and is presumed to be important to the applicant seeking information. The public has a right to know the parameters and the procedures followed in the appointment of judges. If there is a procedure, the public has a right to know. That’s the spirit behind the order.

An argument could be made that observations made in strict confidence on eligible candidates by the collegium that chooses judges may be compromised if they are brought out in the public domain. The entire exercise began when RTI activist S.C. Aggarwal sought information on the correspondence between the then law minister Veerappa Moily and former cji K.G. Balakrishnan on procedures of appointments and modification of appointments…

The Supreme Court refused, saying there was no record of such correspondence. It is strange that no evidence of this exists between a law minister and the Chief Justice of India. Given that there is a stay in the matter by the apex court, we can hope that the order of the CIC will make the correspondence public in 10 days following the issuance of the order. If, despite this, the court says there is no correspondence, then we have to accept it in good faith, for the RTI only deals with written information.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently commented that RTI should be critically examined in the light of fears expressed by government servants that it prevents them from freely expressing their opinion?

I am sure that the prime minister was told about this by senior bureaucrats. I feel the running of the government is equally important as information about how the government is run. The fears expressed by senior executives of the government should be removed. One often hears that many government servants are wary of allotment of land—for several reasons and most of them prefer not to pass an order for fear of being questioned about it later. I think we should sit up and think on how to reverse this fear. I think the prime minister has expressed a concern that needs careful thought. In the meantime, no proposal has come forth on modifying the rules of RTI, neither has an attempt been made to abridge it from any quarter.

One understands that you keep writing to the government asking them to furnish the information they have to the public…

I keep requesting them to make maximum public disclosures. What kind of information the different wings of the government hold which should be in the public domain is mandated under Article 4(1) of the RTI Act. Once the rules and responsibilities and the allocation of business rules are out there in the open, for all such appointments are made in the name of the President of India, it makes information all the more accessible to the general public. In the last three years that I have held office, I don’t see any need to add to the exemption clauses that are already provided for in RTI. And in case of doubt, we accept the limits of any law by the courts of the land.