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The Right To Information Act, 2005
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Shri S.C. Agrawal vs Supreme Court Of India (Sci) on 18 March, 2010

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2010/00013 & 14 dated 11-1-2010 and Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2010/00034 dated 1-2-2010

Right to Information Act 2005 - Section 19

Appellant: Shri S.C. Agrawal

Respondent: Supreme Court of India (SCI) Decision announced: 18.3.2010

FACTS

These are two appeals and one complaint moved by Shri S.C. Agrawal of Dariba, Chandni Chowk, Delhi against the information provided by the CPIO, Supreme Court of India.

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00013:

In this case by an application of 12-10-09 Shri S.C. Agrawal sought the following information:

"1. Did Supreme Court registry (or CPIO) receive a copy of CIC verdicts in petition numbers CIC/WB/A/2008/01549, 01554, 01555, CIC/WB/A/2009/000007, 000008, 000528 & CIC/WB/C/2009/000005 relating to Padma Awards as enclosure with letter dated 17.8.2009 from Central Information commission (copy of letter enclosed).

2. If yes, information on action taken, if any, on the said verdicts forwarded by Central Information Commission.

3. Was Union Home Ministry ever directed by Honourable Supreme court to constitute some committee for reforms in respect of Padma Awards?

4. If yes, please provide details with relevant documents.

5. Is Supreme Court aware that Union Home Ministry is not completely following guidelines formulated by KR Narainan Committee set up on directions of the Apex Court?

6. If yes, action taken/ intended to be taken for such violations of guidelines formulated by a Committee set up on directions of the Apex Court.

7. Any other related information.

8. File notings on movement of this RTI petition as well."

To this Shri S.C. Agrawal received a response dated 7-11-09 from CPIO Shri R.P. Arora informing him as below:

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"Order dated 10.8.2009 in Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2008/001549, 1554, 1555 etc. Titled Shri S. C. Agarwal vs. Ministry of Home Affairs was seen by Hon'ble the chief Justice of India and no action having been directed, the same was filed/ lodged.

You are required to send Rs. 4/- either in cash or by way of Indian Postal Order or by Money Order or Demand Draft drawn in favour of Registrar/ Accounts Officer, Supreme court of India for obtaining true copy of the noting on the movement of your present application. (Containing 2 pages).'

Aggrieved Shri Agrawal moved an appeal before the Appellate Authority Shri M.K. Gupta, Supreme Court of India arguing that "Learned CPIO vide Dy. No. 660/RTI/09-10/SCI dated 7.11.2009 responded to query members 1, 2 and 8 leaving query- numbers (3 ) to (7) unanswered. I appeal that the CPIO may kindly be directed to provide information together with relevant documents/ correspondence/ file-notings etc on query- numbers (3) to (7) also as required to be furnished under section 7 (9) of RTI Act, but now free of charge under section 7 (6) of RTI Act. It is prayed accordingly." Upon this Appellate Authority Shri M.K. Gupta, Supreme Court of India ordered as follows: "After giving my thoughtful consideration, I find that CPIO, Supreme Court of India has not withheld any information.

Accordingly I do not find any illegality in the impugned order and no merits in the appeal and accordingly the appeal is liable to be dismissed.'

This has brought Shri S.C. Agrawal in his second appeal before us with the following prayer:

'Since query numbers (3) to (7) of my RTI petition dated 12.10.2009 remain still unanswered, I appeal that CPIO at Supreme Court may kindly be directed to provide information together with relevant documents/ correspondence/ file notings etc on query numbers (3) to (7) also as required to be furnished under section 7 (9) of RTI Act, but free-of-charge under section 7 (6) of RTI Act. It is prayed accordingly.'

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00014:

In this case by an application of 03-10-09 Shri S.C. Agrawal sought the following information:

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'1. Is it true that Supreme Court has not compiled completely with provisions of section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act for providing necessary information on its website?

2. If yes, action taken against those responsible for the big lapse.

3. Time frame by which Supreme Court with make complete compliance in accordance with various sections under RTI Act especially also section 4 (1) (b) and other sub-sections of section 4 of RTI Act.

4. Is Supreme Court registry aware about difficulty to users of RTI Act in depositing petty cash for RTI fees and other charges at Supreme Court for which presently an entry pass for entry into high security area is required?

5. Will arrangements be made for accepting petty cash towards RTI Act at Reception counter outside the high security area without needing any entry pass?

6. Is Supreme Court registry aware about DoPT circular no. F.10/9/2008-IR dated 5.12.2008 requiring all payments towards RTI Act only in name of 'Accounts Officer?

7. If yes, steps taken to implement procedure as prescribed in DoPT circular No. F.10/9/2008-IR dated 5.12.2008 (copy enclosed).

8. Any other related information.

9. File notings on movement of this RTI petition as well."

To this Shri S.C. Agrawal received a response point-wise dated 4-11-09 from CPIO Shri R.P. Arora, CPIO having received the application on 5-10-09, as below:

"Point Nos. 1 to 3 & 8: The information relating to the Registry of the Supreme Court of India, in terms of the provision of section 4 (1) (b) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 has already been provided on the official website of the Supreme Court of India i.e. www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in and the same is updated from time to time.

Point no. 4: Entry of advocates/ Litigants/ RTI applicants etc. is regulated into the High Security Zone as per the Circulars/ Office orders issued from time to time. Copies of Circulars/ Office orders dated 18.5.2007, 6.12.2007 and 5.5.2009 are in four pages. Point no. 5: R&I Branch of the Supreme Court has deputed one person at the reception counter out side the high security area for the purpose of receiving Dak only. RTI applications along with Postal Order/ Demand Draft/ Pay Order are also being received at the said counter. As it is the responsibility of the Cashier appointed by the Registry to receive/ disburse all cash from the parties/

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officials and issue cash receipt in token of having received cash, the cash is received in the Cash Branch of the Registry. Point nos. 6 & 7: The application fee and other charges received under the Right to Information Act, 2005 either in cash or by way of Indian Postal Order or by Money Order or Demand Draft drawn in favour of accounts Officer/ Registrar/ DDO and other officers of the Supreme Court of India are deposited in the Government Account from time to time."

Aggrieved Shri Agrawal moved an appeal before the Appellate Authority Shri M.K. Gupta, Supreme Court of India specifically pleading that by clubbing the replies to queries 1, 3 and 8 CPIO "was escaping a direct reply to query (2) read with query (8) about action taken against those responsible for the lapse of not complying with section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act in case it was not done so in stipulated time period under RTI Act." Upon this Appellate Authority Shri M.K. Gupta, Supreme Court of India held as follows: "After considering the various points and impugned order I am of the view that the CPIO has not withheld any information.

Accordingly, I do not find any illegality in the impugned order and no merits in the appeal and accordingly the appeal is liable to be dismissed.'

This has brought Shri S.C. Agrawal in his second appeal before us with the following prayer:

"Enclosed news report mentions that information as required under section 4 (1) (b) of RTI Act was not put on Supreme Court website in stipulated time as provided under RTI Act. Therefore, CPIO at Supreme Court may kindly be directed to provide a clear cut reply to my query number (2) read with query number (8) of my RTI petition dated 3.10.2009. It is prayed accordingly.'

File No. CIC/WB/C/2010/00034:

In this case, in a complaint of 3-4-06 Shri S.C. Agrawal has pleaded as follows:

"In-house procedure (copy enclosed) does provide a procedure laid down at Supreme Court whereby procedure to take action on complaints against Judges of superior courts including Judges of High Courts received by chief Justice of India is clearly laid down.

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Hence the information provided in letter dated 3.4.2006 by the Registry of Supreme court that 'Neither Supreme court nor Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority in respect of judges of superior courts, including Judges of High Courts' seems to be somewhat misleading, and as such attracts action by the Honourable commission as spelt in section 18 (1) (e) of RTI Act.

Likewise it is evident that Supreme Court collegiums is virtually the appointing authority in respect of judges of superior courts when even President of India is bound to endorse any recommendation in this regard when it is re-sent by Supreme court collegiums after being once returned by the President of India. (said letter dated 21.4.2006 from Supreme court Registrar also mentions 'without merit' my complaints against a judge of a High court who took up an appeal and decided tit too as a bench- member where the respondent performed marriage of his grand- daughter from official residence of that Judge, when your number seven of Restatement of Values of Judicial Life clearly mentions 'A Judge shall not hear and decide a matter in which a member of his family, a close relation or a friend is concerned)."

The complaint arose from the fact that in our decision notice of 3-4-06 we had directed as follows:

As held in the Decision of February 7, the Commission continues to be of the view that the information provided to the appellant by the CPIO on 22.11.'06 was in strict terms in accordance with the law, since it indicated the action taken on the application. For this reason and because the handling of information as required under the Right to Information Act, 2005 will require the establishment of new procedures and processes in the high fora of the judiciary, a matter which is under process, the CPIO cannot be accused of malafide, nor has the appellant pressed such a charge in the hearing. Hence no penalty is imposed. But as held earlier the information provided was clouded in obscurity, as it did not indicate the manner of accessing the information nor the form of redress that the appellant might seek. Since the information is on the file in the Court of Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India, the Registrar will seek the orders of Hon'ble the Chief Justice as to the manner in which the information can be accessed in keeping with the decorum vital to the administration of justice in the highest Court in the land, and the appellant suitably advised, under intimation to the Commission within fifteen working days from the date of issue of this Decision."

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In compliance Shri Hemant Sampat, Appellate Authority through letter of 21-4-06 conveyed the following to complainant Shri S.C. Agrawal: "The following order was thereupon passed by Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India:

'The matter of accessing the information, coming within the purview of Right to Information Act, has been provided in the Act itself. The Act also provides remedial machinery in case any person is aggrieved from the order passed or information provided by Central Public Information of a Public Authority.

As far as the present case is concerned, the record shows that the complaint made by Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal was placed before Hon'ble R. C. Lahoti the then Chief Justice of India, on 5th October, 2005. No action on the complaint was directed and it was ordered to be kept in the file of Delhi High Court maintained in the office of Chief Justice of India. A letter dated 10th February, 2005 written by Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal was received from the Secretary to President of India. It was placed before my learned predecessor on 24th February, 2005. No action on this letter was, whoever, directed. A reminder dated 30th September, 2005 from Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal was also placed before my learned predecessor and was directed to be kept in Delhi High Court file.

Neither Supreme Court nor Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority in respect of Judges of superior Courts, including Judges of High Courts. Be that as it may, I have also examined the complaints made by Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal and find no merit in them.'

Hence, Shri Agrawal's complaint before us.

All the three cases were heard on 18-3-2010. The following are present. Appellant

Shri Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

Respondents

Shri Raj Pal Arora, Addl. Registrar/ CPIO.

Shri Devadatt Kamat, Advocate, Supreme Court of India. Ms. Priyanka Telang, Advocate, Supreme Court of India. Shri Nitin Lankar.

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00013:

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Shri Kamat, learned counsel for respondent presented his vakalatnama. He submitted that the requests at serial Nos. 3 to 7 of the RTI Application are notional, in that no CPIO can possibly have the record of all the decisions ever made by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India regarding a particular issue. This is an answer which is best sought from a lawyer. Nevertheless, in his personal capacity learned counsel submitted a copy of the order of the Supreme Court in Balaji Raghavan Vs. Union of India (1996) 1 Supreme Court Cases 361 decided by Hon'ble A.M. Ahmadi, CJ and Kuldip Singh, B.P. Jeevan Reddy, N.P. Singh and S. Saghir Ahmad, JJ on 15-12-1995 as Transferred case No. 9/1994 & 1/1995. In this case the learned Supreme Court Justice Kuldip Singh on behalf of Supreme Court of India had suggested as follows: "40. Therefore, to ensure that Padma awards are truly national in character and above party and political considerations, I suggest that 1 a committee at national level be constituted by the Prime Minister of India in consultation with the President of India which may include, among others, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. At the State level similar committee may be formed by the Chief Minister of the State in consultation with the Governor. The Committee may, among others, include Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice of the State or his nominee and the Leader of the Opposition."

Upon this appellant Shri S.C. Agrawal sought to know whether any administrative instructions have been passed to which the respondent stated that there is no such instruction held in the Registry.

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00014:

In this case appellant Shri Agrawal submitted that that only question which remains unanswered is question No.2. Learned counsel for respondent Shri Kamat submitted a download of the website of the Supreme Court of India titled http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/whatisnew.htm in which details of the Supreme Court functions are uploaded. This includes new updates, Junior Court Assistants' Examination, 2009 - Final Result, Application Form for issue of

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Underlined by us to emphasis suggestion, not direction

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Proximity Card, Result of the Advocate on Record examination held in June 2009, Result of Limited Departmental Competitive Examination held in 1999, Hon'ble Court's Directions on various issues, recruitment, speeches of Hon'ble Chief Justice of India, pendency of cases of Supreme Court, pendency of cases in High Courts and subordinate courts, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) guidelines, weekly expenditure, orders recalling entry in Supreme Court. Other links available on the website are also uploaded. Details on information required to be made accessible under the RTI Act and the details of the Registry, together with officers/officials of Supreme Court also feature. A copy of this downloaded printout was also handed over to appellant Shri S.C. Agrawal. Appellant's only question in this regard was whether upload has been made before his application or subsequent to it. Learned counsel for respondent, however, stated that this was not a question raised at the level of either the initial RTI application or in the first appeal.

File No. CIC/WB/C/2010/00034:

In this case the direction given by this Commission is quite clear. What is required was access to the information on the orders of the Hon'ble Chief Justice on the complaint made to him regarding activities of a Judge of the High Court. This information has, in fact, been provided in full to appellant Shri S.C. Agrawal. Learned counsel for respondents also presented a copy of the ruling of the Supreme Court in case Indira Jaising Vs. Registrar General, Supreme Court of India" (2003) 5 Supreme Court Cases, 494, decided on 9-5-2003 by Hon'ble S. Rajendra Babu and G.P. Mathur, JJ in W.P. (C ) No. 218 of 2003, in which it was held as below:

"Therefore, in the hierarchy of the courts, the Supreme Court does not have any disciplinary control over the High Court Judges, much less the Chief Justice of India has any disciplinary control over any of the Judges. That position in law is very clear. Thus, the only source or authority by which the Chief Justice of India can exercise this power of inquiry is moral or ethical and not in exercise of powers under any law. Exercise of such power of the Chief Justice of India based on moral authority cannot be made the subject- matter of a writ petition to disclose a report made to him."

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DECISION NOTICE

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00013:

In this case with the presentation in the hearing of decision of Supreme Court in Balaji Raghavan vs. UOI the question posed at serial No. 3 to 7 of S.C. Agrawal's application stand answered. Nevertheless, on the merits of the plea it is correct that an RTI application to the CPIO unless it refers to a specific case or it seeks access to information cannot be responded to, if it is so general in nature as is the case in the present appeal. For this reason although a copy of decision submitted by learned counsel in the hearing is now provided also to appellant Shri S.C. Agrawal as an Appendix to this decision, the decision of Supreme Court of India Registry in answering these questions is upheld and the appeal dismissed.

File No. CIC/WB/A/2010/00014:

In this case the questions asked by appellant Shri S.C. Agrawal have been fully answered. Admittedly, there is no explicit answer to question No.2 but when the response of the CPIO already is that Section 4 (1) (b) has been complied with in full, which would imply that the Supreme Court is not admitting that the compliance is incomplete, question No.2 becomes entirely infructuous since there is no "big lapse" for which any official can be held responsible. Nevertheless, whether or not the information uploaded by the Supreme Court of India on its website was the result of or consequent to the application of Shri S.C. Agrawal is not an issue before us. In fact, both parties deserve congratulations, appellant for having agitated the subject thereby registering public interest in a matter of vital importance to the successful implementation of the mandate of the RTI Act 2005, and the Registry of Supreme Court of India for having taken a lead in an action in which many public authorities are still far from perfect. With this conclusion the appeal itself becomes unsustainable and is hereby closed.

File No. CIC/WB/C/2010/00034

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In this case what emerges is that complainant Shri S.C. Agrawal is of the view that the orders on file of the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India are not in keeping with in-house procedure of the Supreme Court itself. This is not an issue upon which this Commission, which can only ensure that such information as is held by a public authority is provided, can adjudicate. At any rate during the hearing complainant Shri S.C. Agrawal has withdrawn this complaint which is, therefore, closed.

Announced in the hearing. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.

(Wajahat Habibullah)

Chief Information Commissioner

18-3-2010

Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied against application and payment of the charges prescribed under the Act to the CPIO of this Commission.

(Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar)

Joint Registrar

18-3-2010

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