The interest of transparency will certainly be better served if all Constitutional functionaries, including the Chief Justice of India (CJI), were to come under the purview of Right to Information (RTI), as has been argued by a Supreme Court bench. Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, as per The Times of India, observed that the CJI’s functioning was not something that required secrecy. They were hearing a petition against a Bombay High Court order that declared the Governor’s office as that of a public authority and directed the Goa Raj Bhavan to make public the Governor’s report to the President on the political situation in the state in July-August 2007. Mishra-Roy’s observation is a marked departure from the earlier stand of the apex court, that it is beyond the ambit of the transparency law.
What is interesting is that the issue whether the CJI must make public under RTI information regarding the selection of judges and his/her correspondence with the government has been taken up by the Constitution bench of the apex court, and a decision is still pending. In 2009, the Delhi High Court had ruled that the CJI was indeed a public functionary and had asked the apex court to make public the wealth of its judges. While it would seem ironical that the apex court should hear and decide whether its highest functionary is subject to the transparency law, the tenor Mishra and Roy have adopted could be a sign that the court is inclined to favour transparency.
Given how the court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill that would have replaced the current opaque collegium system of judicial appointments—opting instead for the yet to be finalised “memorandum of procedure” route—bringing the CJI’s office under RTI would be the right way to go.