Notes taken by judges’ stenographer in shorthand notebook, not public record under RTI

High Court of Delhi: Upholding the validity and legality of the order passed by the Central Information Commission, the Bench comprising of S. Sachdeva, J. held that the notes or the copy of the notes dictated by a Judge to a stenographer to be later transcribed into a draft judgment or an order during the  hearing of a case  is not a “record” held by a public authority and therefore cannot be sought under the Right to Information Act.

The petitioner has filed an application under the Right to Information Act seeking copies of the shorthand note book of the stenographer of the concerned court which has been rejected by the First Appellate Authority on the ground that since no such record is being maintained the information is not available and thus the same cannot be furnished. On appeal the Chief Information Commissioner relying on the decision of the Full Bench of this Court in Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 111, declined to interfere with the order passed by the First Appellate Authority. Thus, the petitioner seeks the impugned order of the Central Information Commission  to be set aside.

The Court relying on the judgment of  Subhash Chandra Agarwal  held that shorthand note books are not retained and  cannot be equated with a judgment or an order, which forms part of the judicial record. Further, the Court observed that shorthand notebooks can at best be treated as a memo of what is dictated to a steno to be later transcribed into a draft judgment or an order,which are not considered as final judgment but only a tentative view liable to be changed therefore such draft judgment and orders cannot be said to be information held by a public authority. The Court dismissing the petition  pointed out that the shorthand note books are meant only for the use of the Judges for preparing draft judgment and orders and cannot be held to be a part of a record held by the public authority hence when the draft judgment and order do not form part of a  record held by a public authority, a shorthand note book  which is a memo of what is dictated and would later be typed to become a draft judgment or an order can certainly not be held to be record held by a public authority. [Tapan Choudhury v. Central Information Commission, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 5428,  decided on September 30th  2016]

 

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