Chief Information Commissioner vs High Court Of Gujarat on 4 March, 2020


Supreme Court of India

Chief Information Commissioner vs High Court Of Gujarat on 4 March, 2020

Author: R. Banumathi

Bench: R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna

                                                                      REPORTABLE
                                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                         CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                     CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).1966-1967 OF 2020
                                      (Arising out of SLP(C) No.5840 of 2015)

                         CHIEF INFORMATION COMMISSIONER                            …..Appellant


                                                         VERSUS
                         HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT AND
                         ANOTHER                                               …..Respondents


                                                    JUDGMENT

R. BANUMATHI, J.

Leave granted.

2. The point falling for determination in this appeal is as regards

the right of a third party to apply for certified copies to be obtained

from the High Court by invoking the provisions of Right to

Information Act without resorting to Gujarat High Court Rules

prescribed by the High Court.

3. Brief facts which led to filing of this appeal are as follows:-

An RTI application dated 05.04.2010 was filed by respondent
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

No.2 seeking information pertaining to the following cases – Civil
MAHABIR SINGH
Date: 2020.03.04
15:52:01 IST
Reason:

Application No.5517 of 2003 and Civil Application No.8072 of 1989

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along with all relevant documents and certified copies. In reply, by

letter dated 29.04.2010, Public Information Officer, Gujarat High

Court informed respondent No.2 that for obtaining required copies,

he should make an application personally or through his advocate

on affixing court fees stamp of Rs.3/- with requisite fee to the

“Deputy Registrar”. It was further stated that as respondent No.2 is

not a party to the said proceedings, as per Rule 151 of the Gujarat

High Court Rules, 1993, his application should be accompanied by

an affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies are

required and on making such application, he will be supplied the

certified copies of the documents as per Rules 149 to 154 of the

Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993.

4. Being aggrieved, respondent No.2 preferred Appeal No.84 of

2010 before the Appellate Authority-Registrar Administration under

Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short “RTI Act”).

The appeal was dismissed vide order dated 04.08.2010 on the

ground that for obtaining certified copies, the alternative efficacious

remedy is already available under the Gujarat High Court Rules,

1993 and that under the provisions of RTI Act, no certified copies

can be provided.

5. Respondent No.2 then filed Second Appeal No.1437 of 2010-

11 before the Appellant-Chief Information Commissioner and notice

2
was sent to respondent No.1. Respondent No.1-High Court filed its

response reiterating the position that there are provisions under

Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat High Court Rules for anybody who

wants to obtain the certified copies as per which,

application/affidavit should be filed stating the grounds for which the

documents are required and with requisite court fee stamps.

Respondent No.1 stated that despite the letter dated 02.07.2010 by

the Deputy Registrar (CC Section), Decree Department, Gujarat

High Court to respondent No.2 informing him of the procedure for

getting certified copies, respondent No.2 has not made application

as per the rules of the High Court and that the Public Information

Officer cannot be compelled to breach the High Court Rules and

hence, the appeal filed before the Chief Information Commissioner

(CIC) is liable to be dismissed. Relying upon Sections 6(2) and 22

of the RTI Act, the appellant-Chief Information Commissioner vide

its order dated 04.04.2013 directed Public Information Officer of the

Gujarat High Court to provide the information sought by respondent

No.2 within twenty days.

6. Challenging the order of Chief Information Commissioner,

respondent No.1 filed Special Civil Application No.7880 of 2013

before the High Court. The learned Single Judge, while admitting

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the petition, passed an interim order dated 11.10.2013 directing

respondent No.1 to provide the information sought by respondent

No.2 within four weeks. The learned Single Judge held that the

legality and validity of the direction given by the appellant and the

right of respondent No.2 to receive the copies under RTI Act will be

considered at the stage of final hearing. It was however clarified that

supply of information by respondent No.1 shall not be construed as

acceptance of applicability of RTI Act to the High Court.

7. Being aggrieved by the interim order, respondent No.1-High

Court preferred Letters Patent Appeal No.1348 of 2013 before the

Division Bench contending that the party who seeks certified copies

has to make an application along with the copying charges and

requisite court fees stamp as per Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat

High Court Rules. As per the Rules, if the certified copy is sought by

a person who is not a party to the litigation, his application has to be

accompanied by an affidavit stating therein the purpose for which he

requires the certified copies. Vide impugned order, the High Court

allowed the Letters Patent Appeal holding that when a particular

field is governed by the rules which are not declared ultra-vires,

then there is no question of applying the fresh rules and make the

situation confusing. The High Court held that in the light of the High

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Court Rules, certified copies may be given on payment of charges

as per the Rules and also the applicant (respondent No.2) has to

file an affidavit disclosing the purpose for which the certified copies

are required and there is no question of making an application

under the RTI Act. The Division Bench set aside the order of the

Chief Information Commissioner by observing that when a copy is

demanded by any person, the same has to be in accordance with

the Rules of the High Court on the subject.

8. As the question involved is concerned with all the High Courts

and having regard to the importance of the matter, we have

requested Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni, learned Additional Solicitor

General (ASG) to appear as amicus curiae to assist the Court which

the learned ASG readily agreed. Mr. Nadkarni collected information

from all the High Courts and filed a compilation of the information

obtained by him about the Rules framed by various High Courts in

exercise of their power under Article 225 of the Constitution of India

and under Section 28 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

9. Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, learned Senior counsel for the appellant

has contended that Section 6(2) of the RTI Act specifically provides

that an applicant making a request for information shall not be

required to give reasons for requesting the information sought and

5
whereas under the Gujarat High Court Rules, applications made by

third parties seeking copies of the documents shall be accompanied

by an affidavit stating the grounds on which they are required and

there is direct inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act

and the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993. It was submitted that in

view of the inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act and

the Gujarat High Court Rules, harmonious construction between the

two is not possible and in the event of conflict between the

provisions of RTI Act and any other law made by the Parliament or

State Legislature or any other authority, the former must prevail. It

was submitted that Section 22 of the RTI Act specifically provides

that the provisions of the RTI Act will have an overriding effect over

any other laws for the time being in force. The learned Senior

counsel submitted that the High Court Rules have been framed in

exercise of the powers under Article 225 of the Constitution of India

which would be subject to any other law and the non-obstante

clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act shows that the provisions of the

RTI Act would override the High Court Rules. The learned Senior

counsel inter alia relied upon the recent judgment of the

Constitution Bench in Central Public Information Officer, Supreme

Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40.

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10. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel appearing for the

intervenors submitted that there can be no apprehension that

allowing an applicant to seek information from the High Court under

RTI Act can prejudicially affect the privacy/rights of other parties or

the administration of justice. Reiterating the submission of Senior

counsel, Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, Mr. Prashant Bhushan submitted that

Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules is not in consonance with

Section 6(2) of the RTI Act and the provisions of RTI Act prevails

over the relevant Rules of Public Authorities/Gujarat High Court

Rules. Taking us through Section 22 of the RTI Act, learned

counsel submitted that RTI Act is a general law made by the

Parliament with the avowed object of dissemination of information

and ensuring transparency in the functioning of the Public

Authorities and in view of non obstante clause of Section 22 of the

RTI Act, in case of any conflict regarding “access to information

from public authorities”, the provisions of RTI Act will prevail over

any other law. In support of his contention, the learned counsel

placed reliance upon Institute of Companies Secretaries of India v.

Paras Jain 2019 SCC Online SC 764 and the Constitution Bench

judgment in Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

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11. Mr. Aniruddha P. Mayee, learned counsel appearing for

respondent No.1-High Court of Gujarat submitted that the Gujarat

High Court Rules 149 to 154 do not stipulate anything contra to

Section 22 of the RTI Act and the Gujarat High Court Rule 151 is in

consonance with the RTI Act. The learned counsel submitted that

respondent No.2 was only informed to make an application as per

the procedure stipulated under the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993

and since respondent No.2 was not a party to the proceedings, he

was informed that his application shall be accompanied with an

affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies are

required. The learned counsel submitted that when an efficacious

remedy is available under Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules

which is in consonance with the provisions of RTI Act, the provisions

of the RTI Act cannot be invoked and the High Court rightly held that

there is no question of making an application under the RTI Act and

rightly quashed the order of the appellant-Chief Information

Commissioner.

12. Mr. Nadkarni, learned amicus has taken us through the

information received from the various High Courts and submitted

that in exercise of power under Article 225 of the Constitution of

India, the High Court Rules are framed and the Rules provide for a

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mode for furnishing of information by way of certified copies to

persons who are party to the litigation after making payment of

requisite fees. It was submitted that insofar as third parties i.e.

persons who are not party to the litigation are concerned, the same

is also provided under the Rules, if the third party files an affidavit

stating the reasonable grounds to receive such information/certified

copies. The learned amicus submitted that there is no inconsistency

between the RTI Act and the Rules framed by the High Court so as

to furnish information. It was also submitted that although Section

22 of the RTI Act has an overriding effect over any other laws, in

case there are inconsistencies, Section 22 of the RTI Act does not

contemplate to override those legislations which also aim to ensure

access to information. The learned amicus submitted that so far as

the information on the judicial side of the High Court, the Rules

framed by the High Court provide for dissemination of information to

third party as per the High Court Rules by filing an application with

requisite fee and filing an affidavit stating the grounds. Insofar as

the information on the administrative side of the High Court, the

learned amicus submitted that access to such information could be

had through the Rules framed by the various High Courts and the

Rules framed under the RTI Act by the High Courts. Drawing our

attention to the judgment of the Delhi High Court in The Registrar,

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Supreme Court of India v. RS Misra (2017) 244 DLT 179 and

judgment of the Karnataka High Court in Karnataka Information

Commissioner v. State Public Information Officer and another

WP(C) No.9418 of 2008, the learned amicus submitted that the

High Courts have taken a consistent view that the information can

be accessed through the mechanism provided under the Supreme

Court Rules, 2013 and the High Court Rules and once any

information can be accessed through the mechanism provided

under the Statute or the Rules framed, the provisions of the RTI Act

cannot be resorted to.

13. We have carefully considered the contentions and perused

the impugned judgment and materials on record. The following

points arise for consideration in this appeal:-

(i) Whether Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993
stipulating that for providing copy of documents to the third
parties, they are required to file an affidavit stating the
reasons for seeking certified copies, suffers from any
inconsistency with the provisions of RTI Act?

(ii) When there are two machineries to provide
information/certified copies – one under the High Court
Rules and another under the RTI Act, in the absence of
any inconsistency in the High Court Rules, whether the
provisions of RTI Act can be resorted to for obtaining
certified copy/information?

10

14. Section 2(f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 explains the

meaning of the term “information” which reads as under:-

2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………

(f) “information” means any material in any form, including
records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press
releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers,
samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and
information relating to any private body which can be accessed by
a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;

15. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines “public authority”. The

term “public authority” has been given very wide meaning in the

RTI Act. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act reads as under:-

2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………

(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution
of self-government established or constituted,—

(a) by or under the Constitution;

(b) by any other law made by Parliament;

(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;

(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate
Government, and includes any—

(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;

(ii) non-Government Organisation substantially
financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by
the appropriate Government;

16. Section 2(i) of the RTI Act defines “record” which is an

inclusive definition. Section 2(j) explains “right to information”.

Sections 2(i) and 2(j) of the RTI Act read as under:-

2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………

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(i) “record” includes—

(i) any document, manuscript and file;

(ii) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a
document;

(iii)any reproduction of image or images embodied in such
microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and

(iv) any other material produced by a computer or any other
device;

(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible
under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public
authority and includes the right to—

(i) inspection of work, documents, records;

(ii)taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or
records;

(iii) taking certified samples of material;

(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies,
tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or
through printouts where such information is stored in a
computer or in any other device;

17. Section 8(1) of the RTI Act provides for exemption from

disclosure of information. Right to information is subject to

exceptions or exemptions stated in Section 8(1)(a) to 8(1)(j) of the

RTI Act. There are ten clauses of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.

Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 8 deals with information that

would compromise the sovereignty or integrity of the country and

like matter; clause (b) covers any information which has been

expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal

or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; clause

(c) covers such matters which would cause a breach of privilege of

the Parliament or the State Legislatures; clause (d) protects

information of commercial nature and trade secrets and intellectual

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property; clause (e) exempts the disclosure of any information

available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the

competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest

warrants the disclosure of such information; clause (f) prevents

information being disseminated, if it is received in confidence from

any foreign Government; clause (g) exempts the disclosure of any

information which endanger the life or physical safety of any person

or identify the source of information or assistance given in

confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; clause (h)

bars access to such information which would impede the process of

investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; clause (i)

forbids records and papers relating to deliberations of ministers and

officers of the executive being made available, subject to a proviso;

and, clause (j) prohibits disclosure of personal information unless

there is an element of public interest involved.

18. In Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India

v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40, the Supreme

Court upheld the order passed by the Central Information

Commissioner directing the CPIO, Supreme Court of India to furnish

information as to the assets declared by the Hon’ble Judges of the

Supreme Court. The Constitution Bench held that such disclosure

would not, in any way, impinge upon the personal information and

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right to privacy of the Judges. The fiduciary relationship rule in

terms of Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act was held inapplicable.

Learned counsel appearing for the parties extensively relied upon

the observations of the Supreme Court in Subhash Chandra

Agarwal. Since the issue before us is the High Court Rules vis-a-

vis., the RTI Act, we do not propose to refer the various

observations copiously relied upon by the learned counsel

appearing for the parties.

19. Article 124 relates to the establishment and constitution of the

Supreme Court. Article 124 states that the Supreme Court of India

consist of Chief Justice of India and other Judges. Under Article 145

of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may, from time to time, with

the approval of the President, make Rules for regulating generally

the Practice and Procedure of the Court. In exercise of the powers

under Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has framed

“Supreme Court Rules”. Order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules lays

down the procedure in respect of grant of certified copies of

pleadings, judgments, documents, decrees or orders, deposition of

the witnesses, etc. to the parties to the litigation and also to the third

parties. The parties to a proceeding in the Supreme Court shall be

entitled to obtain certified copies by making appropriate application

14
and the court fees payable as per the “Supreme Court Rules”. So

far as the third parties are concerned, as per Order XIII Rule 2 of

the Supreme Court Rules, the court on the application of a person

who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, pending or

disposed of, may on good cause shown, allow such person to

receive such copies as is or are mentioned in the Order XIII Rule 1

of the Supreme Court Rules. Thus, as per the Supreme Court

Rules also, the third party is required to show good cause for

obtaining certified copies of the documents or orders.

20. Article 216 relates to the constitution of High Courts. Every

High Court consists of a Chief Justice and other Judges as the

President of India may from time to time appoint. The High Court

Rules are framed under Article 225 of the Constitution of India. The

procedure followed for furnishing of copies/certified copies of

orders/documents etc., being information on the judicial side, are

governed by the Rules framed by the High Court under Article 225

of the Constitution of India. Insofar as the RTI Act is concerned, in

exercise of the powers under Section 28 of the RTI Act, various

High Courts have framed the Rules under RTI Act and the

information on the administrative side of the High Court can be

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accessed as per the Rules framed by the High Courts under RTI

Act.

21. In the present case, we are concerned with Gujarat High

Court Rules. Grant of certified copies to parties to the litigation and

third parties are governed by Rules 149 to 154 of Gujarat High

Court Rules. As per the Rules, on filing of application with

prescribed court fees stamp, litigants/parties to the proceedings are

entitled to receive the copies of documents/orders/judgments etc.

The third parties who are not parties in any of the proceedings, shall

not be given the copies of judgments and other documents without

the order of the Assistant Registrar. As per Rule 151 of the Gujarat

High Court Rules, the applications requesting for copies of

documents/judgments made by third parties, shall be accompanied

by an affidavit stating the grounds for which they are required. Rule

151 reads as under:-

“151. Parties to proceedings entitled to copies; application by
third parties to be accompanied by affidavits. Copies of
documents in any Civil or Criminal Proceedings and copies of
judgment of the High Court shall not be given to persons other
than the parties thereto without the order of the Assistant
Registrar. Applications for copies of documents or judgment
made by third parties shall be accompanied by an affidavit stating
the grounds on which they are required, provided that such
affidavit shall be dispensed with in case of applications made by
or on behalf of the Government of the Union, the Government of
any State or the Government of any foreign State.”

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22. The learned amicus has obtained information from various

High Courts as to the procedure followed by the High Courts for

furnishing certified copies of orders/judgments/documents. As per

the Rules framed by various High Courts, parties to the proceedings

are entitled to obtain certified copies of orders/judgments/documents

on filing of application along with prescribed court fees stamp.

Insofar as furnishing of certified copies to third parties, the Rules

framed by the High Courts stipulate that the certified copies of

documents/orders or judgments or copies of proceedings would be

furnished to the third parties only on the orders passed by the court

or the Registrar, on being satisfied about the reasonable cause and

bona fide of the reasons seeking the information/certified copies of

the documents. We may refer to the Rules framed by the High

Courts of Bombay, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madras

and various other High Courts which stipulate similar provisions for

furnishing information/certified copies to third parties. The Rules

stipulate that for the third parties to have access to the information

on the judicial side or obtaining certified copies of

documents/judgments/orders, the third parties will have to make an

application stating the reasons for which they are required and on

payment of necessary court fees stamp. As pointed out earlier,

Supreme Court Rules also stipulate that certified copies of

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documents or orders could be supplied to the third parties only on

being satisfied about the reasonable cause. Be it noted, the access

to the information or certified copies of the

documents/judgments/orders/court proceedings are not denied to

the third parties. The Rules of the High Court only stipulate that the

third parties will have to file an application/affidavit stating the

reasons for which the information/certified copies are required. The

Rules framed by the Gujarat High Court are in consonance with the

provisions of the RTI Act. There is no inconsistency between the

provisions of the RTI Act with the Rules framed by the High Court in

exercise of the powers under Article 225 of the Constitution of India.

23. Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, learned Senior counsel for the appellant

has submitted that Section 6(2) of the RTI Act grants a substantive

right and the person who is seeking information/copies is not

required to give any reason and this right cannot be curtailed or

whittled down by procedural laws framed by the High Court under

Article 225 of the Constitution of India. In support of his contention

that the rules framed by the High Court in exercise of powers under

Article 225 cannot make or curtail any substantive law, reliance was

placed upon Raj Kumar Yadav v. Samir Kumar Mahaseth and

Others (2005) 3 SCC 601. Learned Senior counsel further

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submitted that Section 22 of the RTI Act specifically provides that

the provisions of the RTI Act will have an overriding effect over other

laws for the time being in force. It was therefore, submitted that in

the event of any conflict between the provisions of the RTI Act and

any other laws made by the Parliament or a State Legislature or any

other authority, the provisions of the RTI Act must prevail and

therefore, the RTI Act would prevail over the rules framed by the

High Court. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel for the

intervention applicants also reiterated the same submission.

24. In order to consider the contentions urged by the learned

Senior counsel for the appellant and Mr. Prashant Bhushan, let us

briefly refer to the various categories of information held by the High

Court, which are broadly as under:-

(a) information held by the High Court relating to the
parties to the litigation/proceedings – pleadings,
documents and other materials and memo of grounds
raised by the parties;

(b) orders and judgments passed by the High Court,
notes of proceedings, etc.;

(c) In exercise of power of superintendence over the
other courts and tribunals, information received in the
records submitted/called for by those courts and
tribunals like subordinate judiciary, various tribunals
like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs Excise

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and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and other
tribunals;

(d) information on the administrative side of the High
Court viz. appointments, transfers and postings of the
judicial officers, staff members of the High Court and
the district judiciary, disciplinary action taken against
the judicial officers and the staff members and such
other information relating to the administrative work.

(e) Correspondence by the High Court with the Supreme
Court, Government and with the district judiciary, etc.;

and

(f) information on the administrative side as to the
decision taken by the collegium of the High Court in
making recommendations of the Judges to be
appointed to the High Court; information as to the
assets of the sitting Judges held by the Chief Justice
of the High Court.

25. Information under the categories (a), (b) and (c) and other

information on the judicial side can be accessed/certified copies of

documents and orders could be obtained by the parties to the

proceedings in terms of the High Court Rules and the parties to the

proceedings are entitled to the same. So far as the third parties are

concerned, as of right, they are not entitled to access the

information/obtain the certified copies of documents, orders and

other proceedings. As per rules framed by the High Court, a third

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party can obtain the certified copies of the documents, orders or

judgments or can have access to the information only by filing an

application/affidavit and by stating the reason for which the

information/copies of documents or orders are required. Insofar as

on the administrative side i.e. categories (d), (e) and (f), one can

have access to the information or copies of the documents could be

obtained under the rules framed by the various High Courts or

under the rules framed by the High Court under the RTI Act. Insofar

as the disclosure of information as to the assets of the Judges held

by the Chief Justice of the High Court, the same is now covered by

the judgment of the Constitution Bench reported in Central Public

Information Officer, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra

Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40.

26. The preamble to the RTI Act suggests that the Act was

enacted “to promote transparency and accountability in the working

of every public authority…….”. The Act was enacted by keeping in

view the right of “an informed citizenry and transparency of

information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain

corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities

accountable to the governed…..”. The preamble opens with a

reference to the Constitution having established a democratic

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republic and the need therefore, for an informed citizenry. The

preamble reveals that legislature was conscious of the likely conflict

with other public interest including efficient operations of the

Governments and optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the

preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information and the

necessity to harmonise these conflicting interests. A citizen of India

has every right to ask for any information subject to the limitation

prescribed under the Act. The right to seek information is only to

fulfill the objectives of the Act laid down in the preamble, that is, to

promote transparency of information.

27. Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 requires a

third party applicant seeking copies of documents in any civil or

criminal proceedings to file an application/affidavit stating the

reasons for which those documents are required. As such, the High

Court Rules do not obstruct a third party from obtaining copies of

documents in any court proceedings or any document on the judicial

side. It is not as if the information is denied or refused to the

applicant. All that is required to be done is to apply for the certified

copies with application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the

information. The reason insisting upon the third party for stating the

grounds for obtaining certified copies is to satisfy the court that the

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information is sought for bona fide reasons or to effectuate public

interest. The information is held by the High Court as a trustee for

the litigants in order to adjudicate upon the matter and administer

justice. The same cannot be permitted by the third party to have

access to such personal information of the parties or information

given by the Government in the proceedings. Lest, there would be

misuse of process of court and the information and it would reach

unmanageable levels. If the High Court Rules framed under

Article 225 provide a mechanism for invoking the said right in a

particular manner, the said mechanism should be preserved and

followed. The said mechanism cannot be abandoned or

discontinued merely because the general law – RTI Act has been

enacted.

28. As discussed earlier, the object of the RTI Act itself recognizes

the need to protect the institutional interest and also to make

optimum use of limited fiscal resources and preservation of

confidentiality of sensitive information. The procedure to obtain

certified copies under the High Court Rules is not cumbersome and

the procedure is very simple – filing of an application/affidavit along

with the requisite court fee stating the reasons for seeking the

information. The information held by the High Court on the judicial

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side are the “personal information” of the litigants like title cases and

family court matters, etc. Under the guise of seeking information

under the RTI Act, the process of the court is not to be abused and

information not to be misused.

29. In exercise of supervisory jurisdiction under Article 227 of the

Constitution of India, if the records are received by the High Court

from tribunals like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, it may contain the

details disclosed by an assessee in his Income Tax Return. As held

in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information

Commissioner and Others (2013) 1 SSC 212, the details disclosed

by a person in his Income Tax Return are personal information

which stands exempted from disclosure unless it involves a larger

public interest and the larger public interest justifies the disclosure

of such information. While seeking information or certified copies of

the documents, the High Court Rules which require the third party to

a proceeding to file an affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the

information, the same cannot be said to be inconsistent with the

provisions of the RTI Act in as much as the rejection if any, made

thereafter will be for the very reasons as stipulated in Section 8 of

the RTI Act.

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30. Considering the implementation of RTI Act and observing that

the existing mechanism for invoking the said right should be

preserved and operated, in Institute of Chartered Accountants of

India v. Shaunak H. Satya and Others (2011) 8 SCC 781, the

Supreme Court held as under:-

“24. One of the objects of democracy is to bring about
transparency of information to contain corruption and bring about
accountability. But achieving this object does not mean that other
equally important public interests including efficient functioning of
the governments and public authorities, optimum use of limited
fiscal resources, preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information, etc. are to be ignored or sacrificed. The object of the
RTI Act is to harmonise the conflicting public interests, that is,
ensuring transparency to bring in accountability and containing
corruption on the one hand, and at the same time ensure that the
revelation of information, in actual practice, does not harm or
adversely affect other public interests which include efficient
functioning of the governments, optimum use of limited fiscal
resources and preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information, on the other hand. While Sections 3 and 4 seek to
achieve the first objective, Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 seek to achieve
the second objective.

25. Therefore, when Section 8 exempts certain information from
being disclosed, it should not be considered to be a fetter on the
right to information, but as an equally important provision protecting
other public interests essential for the fulfilment and preservation of
democratic ideals. Therefore, in dealing with information not falling
under Sections 4(1)(b) and (c), the competent authorities under the
RTI Act will not read the exemptions in Section 8 in a restrictive
manner but in a practical manner so that the other public interests
are preserved and the RTI Act attains a fine balance between its
goal of attaining transparency of information and safeguarding the
other public interests.”

31. While examining the issue of where two mechanisms exist for

obtaining the information i.e. the Supreme Court Rules and the RTI

25
Act, in The Registrar Supreme Court of India v. R S Misra (2017)

244 DLT 179, the Delhi High Court held that “once any information

can be accessed through the mechanism provided under another

statute, then the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to.” In

(2017) 244 DLT 179, the Delhi High Court held as under:-

“53. The preamble shows that the RTI Act has been enacted only to
make accessible to the citizens the information with the public
authorities which W.P.(C) 3530/2011 Page 22 of 36 hitherto was not
available. Neither the Preamble of the RTI Act nor does any other
provision of the Act disclose the purport of the RTI Act to provide
additional mode for accessing information with the public authorities
which has already formulated rules and schemes for making the
said information available. Certainly if the said rules, regulations
and schemes do not provide for accessing information which has
been made accessible under the RTI Act, resort can be had to the
provision of the RTI Act but not to duplicate or to multiply the modes
of accessing information.

54. This Court is further of the opinion that if any information can be
accessed through the mechanism provided under another statute,
then the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to as there is
absence of the very basis for invoking the provisions of RTI Act,
namely, lack of transparency. In other words, the provisions of RTI
Act
are not to be resorted to if the same are not actuated to achieve
transparency.

55. Section 2(j) of the RTI Act reveals that the said Act is concerned
only with that information, which is under the exclusive control of
the ‘public authority’. Providing copies/certified copies is not
separate from providing information. The SCR not only deal with
providing ‘certified copies’ of judicial records but also deal with
providing ‘not a certified copy’ or simply a ‘copy’ of the document.

26

The certification of the records is done by the Assistant
Registrar/Branch Officer or any officer on behalf of the Registrar. In
the opinion of this Court, in case of a statute which contemplates
dissemination of information as provided for by the Explanation to
Section 4 of the RTI Act then in such situation, public will have
minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain such information.

56. There are other provisions of the RTI Act which support the said
position, namely, Sections 4(2), (3) and (4) which contemplate that
if an information is disseminated then the public will have minimum
resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain information. In the present
case, the dissemination of information under the provisions of the
SCR squarely fits into the definition of “disseminated” as provided
in the aforesaid Explanation to Section 7(9) and the Preamble
contemplate a bar for providing information if it „disproportionally
diverts the resources of the public authority”.

57. Section 4(2) also provides that it shall be constant endeavour of
every public authority to take steps in accordance with the
requirements of subSection (1) thereof and to provide as much
information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through
various means of communications including intervals so that the
public has minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain
information.” [Underlining added]

The same view was taken up by the Karnataka High Court in State

Public Information Officer and Deputy Registrar (Establishment) v.

Karnataka Information Commission and Another WP No.26763 of

2013 dated 09.01.2019.

32. We fully endorse above views of the Delhi High Court. When

the High Court Rules provide for a mechanism that the

information/certified copies can be obtained by filing an
27
application/affidavit, the provisions of the RTI Act are not to be

resorted.

33. Sub-section (2) of Section 4 of the RTI Act provides that every

public authority to take steps to provide as much information suo

motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of

communications including internet, so that the public have minimum

resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain information. Suo motu

disclosure of information on important aspects of working of a public

authority is therefore, an essential component of information regime.

The judgments and orders passed by the High Courts are all

available in the website of the respective High Courts and any

person can have access to these judgments and orders. Likewise,

the status of the pending cases and the orders passed by the High

Courts in exercise of its power under Section 235 of the Constitution

of India i.e. control over the subordinate courts like transfers,

postings and promotions are also made available in the website. In

order to maintain the confidentiality of the documents and other

information pertaining to the litigants to the proceedings and to

maintain proper balance, Rules of the High Court insist upon the

third party to file an application/affidavit to obtain

information/certified copies of the documents, lest such application

28
would reach unmanageable proportions apart from the misuse of

such information.

34. Section 22 of the RTI Act lays down that the provisions of the

RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent

therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other

law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by

virtue of any law other than RTI Act. Learned Senior counsel for the

appellant has submitted that since the requirement under Rule 151

of the Gujarat High Court Rules of filing an affidavit stating the

grounds for seeking the information is directly contrary to Section

6(2) of the RTI Act and there is direct inconsistency between the

provisions of the RTI Act and the Gujarat High Court Rules and in

the event of conflict between the provisions of the RTI Act and any

other law made by the Parliament or a State Legislature or any

other authority, the RTI Act must prevail.

35. In the non obstante clause of Section 22 of the RTI Act, three

categories have been mentioned:- (i) the Official Secrets Act, 1923;

and (ii) any other law for the time being in force; or (iii) any

instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. In

case of inconsistency of any law with the provisions of the Right to

Information Act, overriding effect has been given to the provisions of

29
the Right to Information Act. Section 31 of the RTI Act which is a

repealing clause repeals only the Freedom of Information Act, 2002

and not other laws. The Right to Information Act has not repealed

the Official Secrets Act or any of the laws providing confidentiality

which prohibits the authorities to disclose information. Therefore, all

those enactments including Official Secrets Act, 1923 continue to be

in force. This Act however, has an overriding effect to the extent

they are inconsistent.

36. The non-obstante clause of the RTI Act does not mean an

implied repeal of the High Court Rules and Orders framed under

Article 225 of the Constitution of India; but only has an overriding

effect in case of inconsistency. A special enactment or rule cannot

be held to be overridden by a later general enactment simply

because the latter opens up with a non-obstante clause, unless

there is clear inconsistency between the two legislations. In this

regard, we may usefully refer to the judgment of the Supreme Court

in R.S. Raghunath v. State of Karnataka (1992) 1 SCC 335 wherein,

the Supreme Court held as under:-

“38. In Ajoy Kumar Banerjee v. Union of India (1984) 3 SCC 127,
Sabyasachi Mukharji, J. (as His Lordship then was) observed thus :

“As mentioned hereinbefore if the scheme was held to be
valid, then the question what is the general law and what is the
special law and which law in case of conflict would prevail
would have arisen and that would have necessitated the
application of the principle “generalia specialibus non

30
derogant”. The general rule to be followed in case of conflict
between the two statutes is that the later abrogates the earlier
one. In other words, a prior special law would yield to a later
general law, if either of the two following conditions is satisfied:

(i) The two are inconsistent with each other.

(ii) There is some express reference in the later to the
earlier enactment.

If either of these two conditions is fulfilled, the later law,
even though general, would prevail.”

37. As pointed out earlier, Section 31 of the RTI Act repeals only

the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and not other laws. If the

intention of the legislature was to repeal any other Acts or laws

which deal with the dissemination of information to an applicant,

then the RTI Act would have clearly specified so. In the absence of

any provision to this effect, the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be

interpreted so as to attribute a meaning to them which was not

intended by the legislature. In the RTI Act, there is no specific

reference to the rules framed by the various High Courts or any

other special law excepting the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.

38. As discussed earlier, Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court

Rules requires a third party to the proceedings to file an affidavit and

state the reasons for seeking access to the information or grant of

certified copies of records and there is no inconsistency of the High

Court Rules with the provisions of the RTI Act. The Gujarat High

Court Rules neither prohibit nor forbid dissemination of information

31
or grant of certified copies of records. The difference is only insofar

as the stipulation of filing an application/affidavit or payment of fees,

etc. is concerned, there is no inconsistency between the two

provisions and therefore, the RTI Act has no overriding effect over

Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules.

39. Ten categories of information are exempted from disclosure

under Section 8(1)(a) to (j) of the RTI Act. Section 8(1)(j) excludes

disclosure of personal information, the disclosure of which:- (i) has

no relationship to any public activity or interest; or (ii) would cause

unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. However, in

both the cases, the Central Public Information Officer or the

appellate authority may order disclosure of such information, if they

are satisfied that larger public interest justifies disclosure. This

would imply that personal information which has some relationship

to any public activity or interest may be liable to be disclosed. An

invasion of privacy may be held to be justified if the larger public

interest so warrants.

40. The information held by the High Court on the judicial side are

the personal information of the parties to the litigation or information

furnished by the Government in relation to a particular case. There

may be information held by the High Court relating to the cases

32
which have been obtained from the various tribunals in exercise of

the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227 of the

Constitution of India. For instance, the matters arising out of the

orders by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs Excise and

Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and other tribunals over which the

High Court exercises the supervisory jurisdiction. The

orders/judgments passed by the High Court though are the

documents which are concerned to the rights and liabilities of the

parties to the litigation. Under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, the

Central Public Information Officer or the appellate authority may

order disclosure of personal information if they are satisfied that the

larger public interest justifies disclosure. Insofar as the High Court

Rules are concerned, if the information or certified copies of the

documents/record of proceedings/orders on the judicial side of the

Court is required, all that the third party is required to do is to file an

application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking such

information. On being satisfied about the reasons for requirement of

the certified copy/disclosure of information, the Court or the

concerned Officer would order for grant of certified copies. As

discussed earlier, Order XIII Rule 3 of the Supreme Court Rules

also stipulate the same procedure insofar as the third party seeking

certified copy of the documents/records.

33

41. Yet another contention advanced is that the information held

by the High Court may be furnished to the applicant by following the

procedure under Section 11 of the RTI Act. Section 11 of the Act

deals with third party information. As per Section 11 of the Act, if

the requisite information or record or part thereof has been supplied

by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third

party, then the Central Public Information Officer or State Public

Information Officer, as the case may be, within five days of receipt of

the request give a written notice to such third party of the request

and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State

Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose

the information or record or part thereof and invite the third party to

make a submission in writing or orally regarding whether such

information should be disclosed and such submission of the third

party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about the

disclosure of the information.

42. We do not find any merit in the above submission and that

such cumbersome procedure has to be adopted for furnishing the

information/certified copies of the documents. When there is an

effective machinery for having access to the information or obtaining

certified copies which, in our view, is a very simple procedure i.e.

34
filing of an application/affidavit with requisite court fee and stating

the reasons for which the certified copies are required, we do not

find any justification for invoking Section 11 of the RTI Act and adopt

a cumbersome procedure. This would involve wastage of both time

and fiscal resources which the preamble of the RTI Act itself intends

to avoid.

43. We summarise our conclusion:-

(i) Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules stipulating
a third party to have access to the
information/obtaining the certified copies of the
documents or orders requires to file an
application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking
the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions
of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different
procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for
obtaining information. In the absence of inherent
inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act
and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not
apply.

(ii) The information to be accessed/certified copies on
the judicial side to be obtained through the
mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the
provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.

44. In the light of aforesaid reasonings, the impugned order dated

13.03.2014 passed by the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad in

35
Letters Patent Appeal No.1348 of 2013 is confirmed and these

appeals are dismissed. We place on record the valuable assistance

rendered by Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni as amicus.

..…………………….J.

[R. BANUMATHI]

..…………………….J.

[A.S. BOPANNA]

..……………………….J.

[HRISHIKESH ROY]

New Delhi;

March 04, 2020.

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