Gujarat High Court to decide if judge’s personal details are subject to RTI
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Gujarat High Court to decide if judge’s personal details are subject to RTI

Aditya AK

The Gujarat High Court is faced with the prospect of answering a pertinent question: to what extent does a sitting High Court judge’s personal details fall under the ambit of the Right to Information Act?

As first reported by the Times of India, the matter stems from an RTI query made by one AR Chauhan, seeking details regarding sitting Gujarat High Court judge Paresh Upadhyay J. Justice Upadhyay was elevated from the Bar as an additional judge of the High Court in November 2011, before being made permanent in September 2013.

The information asked for includes details about the judge’s parents, the judge’s educational qualifications, the number of cases in which he appeared for the state government before becoming a High Court judge, the institutions he represented when he was a lawyer, and his call history for 2014.

A week after receiving the application, the Public Information Officer of the High Court refused to divulge the information, as it fell under “personal information” under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act.

The Appellate Authority took a similar stance, stating in its order,

“The personal information about the name of Judge’s parents, the information regarding his native place and about his education has no relevance for any public interest.

The case conducted by the person prior to his being a Judge even has no relevance with public interest, nor any information regarding the travel made by the Judge and the log book of the vehicle information of TA/DA, Service book, telephone details and Mediclaim and Insurance details are all personal informations, which an individual as a citizen, is not required to receive as it would cause unwarranted invasion in the privacy of the Judge…”

At this juncture, the applicant chose to prefer a second appeal to the Gujarat Information Commission. After hearing arguments from both sides in August this year, State Chief Information Commission Balwant Singh came to a decision on September 23.

It was held that information regarding the judge’s educational qualifications, details of official tours undertaken by him in 2014 and information of the cases in which he represented the state government before becoming a judge could be provided “without causing any unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the concerned Judge”.

Aggrieved by this, the administrative side of the High Court decided to challenge the GIC’s order. When the matter came up for hearing before Justice RM Chhaya last week, an interim stay was granted, with the judge noting that it was a matter that required the court’s consideration. Hemang Shah appeared for the High Court.

The decision in this case could well set a precedent for transparency regarding members of the higher judiciary.

Read the State Chief Information Commissioner’s order below.

A-1792-2015_68003.pdf
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Read the High Court’s order dated November 23:

C_SCA_19465_2016_o_1.pdf
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