Skip to main content

Gujarat High Court officials asked to give info under RTI on "casual absence" of judges during hearing

Indukumar Jani
By Our Representative
In an important order, issued on November 12, 2013, Gujarat’s chief information commissioner (CIC) D Rajagopalan has asked the public information officer (PIO) of the Gujarat High Court and the appellate authority (AA), registrar, Gujarat High Court, to provide information regarding the number of leaves given to the court’s judges, as sought by an applicant. A senior social activist, Indukumar Jani, had sought information regarding judges’ leaves in 2010, arguing that people coming from far off areas, especially the tribal belt, often find it that there was no hearing on the appointed date, as the judge hearing the case had gone on leave or were on some other administrative job.
Jani was denied information citing Gujarat High Court rules for the right to information (RTI) Act, saying that anything that is not in public domain was exempted from granting information under the RTI. Rjecting the argument, in his ruling, Rajagopalan said, the officials of the High Court cannot act under their own RTI rules, which contradict the RTI Act. The rules of any organization are meant to the procedure to provide information works in well-oiled fashion. They cannot override provisions of the RTI Act.
The CIC’s order said, in case there is a difference between the rules worked out by an organization and the RTI Act, the RTI Act should be considered final. It added, if at all the officials of the Gujarat High Court wish to deny information regarding leaves granted to the court judges, it should be done under Section 8 of the RTI Act. Under Section 8, the public authority can deny information in case the information sought affects the sovereignty and integrity of the country, or leads to incitement of offense, or is breach of privilege of a legislative body, or is a commercial confidence.
In April 2010, Jani, who is editor of “Naya Marg” is one of the senior-most Gandhian activists, annoyed by frequent absence of judges at the time of hearing of cases related with poor tribal workers coming from farflung areas, filed an application before the PIO, asking for (1) whether the High Court judges are allowed leaves, (2) the rules under which judges are allowed leaves, and (3) how many leaves are allowed to the judges. He also sought the exact information of the number of days for which the judges had actually gone on leave or were absent for hearing.
The PIO replied to Jani’s request on December 29, 2010, or nearly six months later, saying that the judges are allowed 14 days of “casual absence” under a resolution passed by a conference of judges, under the chief justice of India, held in December 1987. On January 27, 2011, a dissatisfied Jani went in for appeal, wanting to know the reasons under which the judges are allowed leave, as people came from farflung areas, as far as 200 km away, only to find on board that the judge was not there for hearing. On May 5, 2011, Jani was sent a copy of the resolution. 
D Rajagopalan
Jani was denied information on March 3, 2012, citing High Court rules, which prompted him – with the help of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), the state’s premier RTI NGO – to go to make a complaint to the Gujarat’s chief information commissioner (CIC), saying he should be given information, as it is of public interest, and the judges have their constitutional duty to hear a case if there is no unbecoming incident.
MAGP’s Pankti Jog said, Jani’s appeal to the CIC had its own merit, as the High Court “is expected to provide a model for other competent authorities to follow. If the PIO of the High Court does not take the RTI Act seriously, it becomes a bad precedence for others.” She added, “Denial of information is not justified. The PIO adding more exemptions for providing information is ultra virus to the objectives of the RTI Act. The provision for exemption, that ‘anything that is not there in the public domain’, is also against the spirit or transparency.”
She also underlined, the information sought by Jani actually falls under the proactive disclosure category of the RTI Act; hence, the PIOr’s denial of information is even less justified, adding, “The Gujarat High Court should reconsider its rules for providing information and work out a mechanism for it.”

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.