The Supreme Court has dismissed a request for details of a meeting of its top panel on the appointment of judges, declaring that these discussions cannot be revealed to the public.
“Whatever is discussed (in collegium meetings) shall not be in the public domain. Unless any significant decision is taken at the meeting and a resolution is passed, only the final decision needs to be uploaded,” the Supreme Court said on Friday.
A petition had sought details of a Collegium meeting on December 12, 2018, on the appointment of two judges, which were never made public. The petitioner, activist Anjali Bhardwaj, had sought the details under the Right to Information Act but it was denied, and she had challenged the decision.
The judges said no decision was taken at that meeting and noted that the petitioner had “relied on articles” based on interviews by one of the judges present in that meeting, reports NDTV.
Dismissed with ‘no comment’
“We do not want to comment on the same. The subsequent resolution was very clear. There is no substance in the (petition), it deserves to be dismissed,” said the Supreme Court.
In the meeting in question, then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and four senior-most judges — Justices Madan B Lokur, A K Sikri, S A Bobde and N V Ramana — took some decisions on the elevation of judges to the Supreme Court. The details of the meeting were not uploaded on the Supreme Court website.
The decisions were later overturned and two of the names discussed were reportedly dropped after a new collegium was constituted following Justice Lokur’s retirement. At a meeting on January 10, this collegium decided to “reconsider” the previous proposals.
Justice Lokur had in January 2019 expressed disappointment that the resolution in that meeting was not uploaded on the site.
Ambit of RTI?
Arguing on behalf of the petition, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had questioned whether the collegium’s decisions were excluded from RTI. “Don’t the people of the country have a right to know? The court had said it is a basic right. Now Supreme Court is backtracking on that,” he said.
The SC’s firm refusal to reveal collegium discussions to the public adds to the controversial back-and-forth between the government and the judiciary over judges’ appointments.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court reacted sharply to the speech of Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar in Rajya Sabha referring to judges appointments. “Speeches made by the high constitutional functionaries in public, making comments on the Supreme Court Collegium, are not very well taken. You have to advise them,” said the court.
Dhankhar had commented on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), the scrapped law on judicial appointments that gave the government a role in judicial appointments. Many central ministers have argued that the government should have a role in selection of judges, which has been the domain of the Supreme Court Collegium since 1991.