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In a rather verbose order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has made some sharp observations regarding the lack of transparency in the functioning of judiciary and the absence of a redressal mechanism to deal with complaints against judges.
The order passed by Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has also directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to disclose when the Memorandum of Procedure will be finalised and implemented.
The direction came in an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
The order was passed with respect to five RTI applications filed by Agarwal seeking different information. The RTIs sought information with respect to leakage of NEET judgment in 2013 and action taken on that, and details of complaints received against former Chief Justice of India, the late Altamas Kabir.
Besides the above, Agrawal sought, inter alia, the following information:
The information provided by CPIO and the Appellate Authority were not satisfactory, leading to an appeal before the CIC.
The main contention of the Ministry was based on the independence of the judiciary.
“Ministry expressed apprehension that accountability should not mean to open flood gates for frivolous and unsubstantiated allegations reaching media from the dissatisfied litigants. The independence should be protected from vengeance of such rejected parties. Their baseless allegations cannot be allowed to demoralize the judges and obstruct fearless functioning of the judiciary, which is the only resort for a common man when Executive and Legislature acted in unconstitutional manner.”
The CIC in its order noted that the appellant is asking for “accountability, answerability, including the appointment process, and transparency related governance issues of the Judiciary from Ministry of Law and Justice.”
The CIC then proceeded to discuss extensively about accountability and transparency in the judiciary. Discussions were largely based on the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Memorandum of Procedure and how a mechanism could be evolved to deal with complaints against the judiciary without compromising its independence.
It drew the following three conclusions based on the discussion:
“(a) There is no system for redressal of grievances in any court of India, and no mechanism to receive complaints against judiciary. A comprehensive mechanism need to be put in place to ensure both answerability and access to information about administration of justice including appointments, securing ethics, enforcing probity, complaints and action on them, to ensure transparency and accountability without compromising the basic constitutional character of the Independence of Judiciary, to be precise, it is not known who will discipline the judges or former judges, CJI or former CJI. Union Ministry of Law and Justice is expected to inform the appellant/citizen and the Commission, what is possible time required to introduce grievance-redressal system in High Courts and Supreme Court.
b) There is lack of basic information to the citizens as where the process of appointment of judge begins, whether a jurist could become judge, if so, where the proposal originates, where the aspirant jurist needs to file his application or how the bring their candidature to the notice collegiums, whether this constitutional provision for appointing judges from jurists will ever be implemented, what is the policy, if any. Similarly people like appellant do not know where complaint against sitting judges or retired judges could be filed.
c) The state continues to be the biggest litigant, in spite of policy statement and also the statements of the Government leaders assuring reduction of the cases concerning the system.”
Based on the above, the CIC proceeded to issue the following directions:
Besides the above, directions were also issued against leakage of NEET judgment of 2013. Read more about that here.
Read the order below.