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

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Wedding of the century': What does Mukesh Ambani want to prove by such extravaganza?

By NS Venkataraman*  Mukesh  Ambani,   a renowned Indian industrialist who is said to be the richest person in India and  one of the richest persons in the world,   has just now conducted the wedding celebration of  his son in Mumbai,   with unheard level of lavishness in India.

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

Banned Maoist party protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, claims support across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  Despite being a banned and designated as terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is said to have successfully implemented a one-day bandh across Kolhan division in Jharkhand on July 10th, with repurcussions in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The bandh was called to protest against alleged police brutality in the Kolhan-Saranda region.

Post-poll mob lynching spree, bulldozer justice: NAPM seeks united resistance

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls "the horrific spree of mob lynchings across the country after the Lok Sabha election results", India's premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has called for "united resistance" against "hateful communal politics, mob lynching of religious minorities and caste-based oppression".

Hindutva economics? 12% decline in manufacturing enterprises, 22.5% fall in employment

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The messiah of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He pledged to transform the Indian economy and deliver a developed nation with prosperous citizens. However, despite Modi's continued tenure as the Prime Minister, his ambitious electoral promises seem increasingly elusive.