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NJAC Row: Appointment of top judges to be kept out of RTI purview

In a setback to transparency in higher judiciary, the Central government has decided against bringing appointments to the higher judiciary under the RTI Act’s purview.

Giving this information to the media here on Tuesday, Union Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda claimed that transparency “can be achieved even without it”.

Gowda said the revised draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) to guide appointments to the Supreme Court and the high courts was in the “final stage”, and it would be sent to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) soon.

Asked whether the draft MoP provides for bringing judicial appointments under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, a long-standing demand from jurists and others, Gowda replied in the negative. When pointed out that Section 8 of the RTI Act, which deals with exemptions to the Act, doesn’t exclude judicial appointments from the purview, the minister said, “Transparency can be attained without the RTI Act also.”

Incidentally, during hearing of petitions about the constitutionality of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, the government had repeatedly argued that the collegium system of appointment was opaque, also asserting that any appointment should be open to scrutiny under the RTI Act.

Today, asked whether he had met CJI T S Thakur in the process of drafting the MoP, Gowda replied in the affirmative but refused to comment further. He said while drafting the MoP was the responsibility of the Executive, both the Judiciary and the Executive have to “agree” on the final draft.

“It (accepting the MoP) is the domain of the CJI and the collegium…this MoP will be appreciated by the Judiciary,” he said.

The draft MoP for appointment of members to the higher judiciary is being prepared after Supreme Court struck down the NJAC Act.

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