CIC to decide if CJI under RTI Act

NEW DELHI: Undeterred by the Chief Justice of India’s assertion that he does not come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to take up the issue in a full bench hearing soon. The issue is likely to come up before the Supreme Court breaks for recess. “We have received complaints from two people regarding the CJI’s statement. We will take up the matter in a full bench hearing and till such time, I would like to refrain from making any observation on the issue,” chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. The issue comes a time when the CJI has mellowed down from his earlier stance and said that his office is that of a public servant. The CJI had recently remarked that as a constitutional authority, he did not come under the purview of the Act. “The CJI is a constitutional authority. RTI does not cover constitutional authorities,” the CJI said. In a statement later, he clarified that he was a public servant and the issue of being governed under the Act was debatable. Following the earlier remark, Subhash C Aggarwal and C Ramesh filed complaints based on newspaper clippings. In his complaint, Aggarwal has asked if the chief justices of the apex court and high courts come under the purview of the RTI Act. The appeal was first sent to the department of law and justice from where it was transferred to the department of personnel and training. Having met with no success, Aggarwal appealed to the CIC. “There is a question of interpretation in the matter. If the office of the CJI is a constitutional authority, does the individual’s actions outside office also remain outside the Act,” Habibullah said. The CJI’s statement has met with widespread debate on the issue. A parliamentary committee added to the furore with its report pointing out that all constitutional authorities come under the Act. Saying that the definition of a public authority as described in section 2 in the RTI Act was inclusive of the executive, legislative and judiciary, the report added that chief justices of Supreme Court and high courts were also governed by the RTI Act.
14 May 2008, 0331 hrs IST , Himanshi Dhawan , TNN


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