CIC to SC & Law Ministry: Disclose action taken against former CJI Altamas Kabir

Central Information Commission (CIC): While strongly emphasizing the importance of judicial accountability and transparency, the Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu has directed the Central Public Information Officer of Supreme Court and the Ministry of Law and Justice to disclose the action taken on complaints made against former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir.

The appellant had filed RTI applications seeking the copy of the complaints received against former CJI Altamas Kabir, including complaints of Justice VR Krishna Iyer and Mr. Furquan; information as to the action taken on all such complaints and action taken to probe the leakage of Supreme Court verdict in Christian Medical College, Vellore v. Union of India, (2014) 2 SCC 305, before its pronouncement; and the copy of complaints received against any other sitting or retired Judge. The CPIO, Department of Legal Affairs, stated that the representation of Mr. Furquan was forwarded to Chief Justice of India for appropriate action. Similarly, the complaints received against serving/retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts were also forwarded to the Supreme Court and High Courts concerned for action and as originals were forwarded, they did not have those copies. He also explained that the disclosure of names of serving or retired judges, against whom complaints were made, might have far reaching consequences like demoralizing the Judges.

The CIC noted that though it could be unreasonable to give copies of frivolous complaints, but if any complaints were taken up for further probe after prima facie inquiry, it would be in public interest to disclose the copies of the complaints along with the status of action taken. The Commission thus directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to disclose the action taken on complaints made against former CJI Altamas Kabir and the action taken on the leakage of the judgment. It further directed the Ministry to inform the appellant as to the number of complaints made against former Judges that were received and forwarded, without indicating the names and contents; the current status of the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the National Litigation Policy and the new Memorandum of Procedure, 2016-17; and the response to Government’s suggestion to create redressal mechanism for grievances in Supreme Court and High Courts. The Commission also directed the CPIO of Supreme Court to inform the appellant, the action taken on the representation of Mr. Furquan, and the number of complaints received from the Ministry of Law and Justice, without indicating the names or contents. [Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. Central Public Information Officer, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 592, decided on 03.05.2017]

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