Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS & UPPSC Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 17 July 2020

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS & UPPSC Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper - III : General Studies - II : Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

Q. What do you understand by 'Public Authority'? Comment on the judgment of the Supreme Court, concerning the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) coming under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. (250 words)

Model Answer:

  • Introduction: Define Public Authority
  • Recent judgement concerning the office of the Chief Justice of India
  • Implications of the judgement
  • Conclusion

Introduction: Define Public Authority:

Public Authority is defined in Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act 2005. “Public Authority” means any authority or “body or institution of self-Government established or constituted:

  • By or under the constitution
  • By any other law made by Parliament
  • By any other law made by State Legislature
  • By notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-
  • body owned, controlled or substantially financed
  • Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.”

Recent judgement concerning the office of the Chief Justice of India:

  • The issue relating to the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) coming under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) is being debated for many years now.
  • The debate arose after Subhash Chandra Agrawal requested for information with regard to the number of judges who filed the details of their annual assets to the CJI voluntarily. The matter was rejected.
  • The Central Information Commission (CIC) ordered disclosure of the information asked for. The matter went to the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High court upheld that the office of CJI comes under RTI but it was again challenged in Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court finally gave a verdict that the office of the CJI comes under the ambit of RTI.
  • The Supreme Court verdict said that the office of CJI is a “public authority” and it is a part and parcel of the institution. Hence, if the Supreme Court is a public authority, so is the office of the CJI.

Implications of the judgment:

  • The office of the CJI was established under article 124 of the Constitution of India. Any authority created under the Constitution automatically becomes a public authority.
  • Many are quite intrigued that the office of the CJI managed to remain out of the ambit of the CJI for such a long time.
  • Resistance to transparency by the office of the CJI is not welcome to the image of a public authority like the office of the CJI.
  • The judiciary cannot function in total isolation as judges enjoy a constitutional post and discharge public duty.
  • Many critiques argue that the judgement hampers Right to Privacy of the office of the CJI.
  • It is an important aspect and has to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice of India.
  • The verdict also upheld that transparency does not undermine judicial independence. Judicial independence and accountability go hand in hand.
  • RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance and that judicial independence has to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.

Conclusion:

The RTI Act is a strong weapon that enhances accountability, citizen activism and, consequently, participative democracy. The Supreme Court judgement paves the way for greater transparency and could now impinge upon issues such as disclosure, under the RTI Act, by other institutions such as registered political parties.