'Collegium Discussions Cannot Be In Public Domain' : Supreme Court Dismisses Plea To Disclose Details Of Dec 2018 Meeting Under RTI
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition which sought for details of the Supreme Court collegium's meeting of December 12, 2018 under the Right to Information Act, observing that the discussion cannot be disclosed to the public and that only the final decision of the Collegium need to be uploaded in the website.
The Court observed that only the final resolution can be considered as the decision and whatever is discussed is not required to not be in public domain, that too under the RTI Act. The petitioner, RTI Activist Anjali Bharadwaj, had placed reliance on the interviews given by one of the judges who was a party to the December 2018 meeting (Justice Madan Lokur) that the decision to recommend the elevation to two High Court Chief Justices was finalized in the said meeting and that the said decision was changed after his retirement. Based on the said reports, the petitioner had sought the details of the collegium meeting of December 2018.
Rejecting the request, the bench led by Justice MR Shah stated that from the subsequent resolution passed on January 10, 2019, it appeared that no final decision was taken during the December 12, 2018 meeting.
"Some discussions might have taken place, but unless and until a final decision is taken after due consultation and on the basis of the final decision a resolution is drawn, whatever discussions which have taken place cannot be said to be a final decision of the collegium. The actual resolution passed by the collegium only can be said to be a final decision of the collegium and till then, at the most, it can be said to be a tentative decision during the consultation. It is to be noted that a final decision is taken by the collegium only after due consultation. During the consultation if some discussion takes place, but no final decision is taken and no resolution is drawn, it cannot be said that any final decision is taken by the collegium", Justice MR Shah pronounced the order.
"The collegium is a multi-member body whose decision embodying the resolution that will be formally drawn up and signed. When in the subsequent resolution dated 10.01.2019 it is specifically mentioned that in the earlier meeting held on 12.12.2018, though some decisions were taken, but ultimately the consultations were not complete and concluded and therefore the agenda items were adjourned. Therefore, as such no final decision was taken which has culminated into a final resolution drawn and signed by all the members of the collegium. The same was not required to be disclosed to the public domain that too under the RTI Act. Whatever is discussed shall not be in the public domain. As per the resolution dated 03.10.2017, only the the final resolution and the decision is required to be uploaded in the Supreme Court website".
So far as the reliance placed on the press reports of the former collegium member, the bench said, "we do not want to comment upon the same".
The bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar was considering a Special Leave Petition filed by RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj challenging a Delhi High Court Judgement that dismissed her plea for information under the Right to Information Act regarding decisions taken by the Collegium in a meeting dated December 12, 2018.
For Petitioner(s) Mr. Prashant Bhushan, AOR Ms. Ria Yadav, Adv. Ms./Mr. Cheryl D'Souza, Adv. Mr. Rahul Gupta, Adv.