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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

HC refuses to share info on errant judges

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: May 31, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 6
Abhinav Garg | TNN 

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court thinks any transparency on action taken against errant trial court judges is ‘‘an unwarranted invasion of their privacy’’. 

    For it has quelled an attempt to access these details in an application made to it under the Right to Information Act. HC has sought refuge behind its rule 5 (b) of Delhi HC (RTI rules) to block information as the rule allows it to withhold information on this ground. 

    ‘‘A number of complaints against judicial officers have been received in the vigilance branch during the last 10 years and on the basis of that, necessary action has been taken against erring judicial officers. The details of same can’t be disclosed as it would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual’’ says an RTI reply received from HC. 

    The reply came on an RTI filed by a lawyer who had asked the method by which HC monitors the conduct of trial court judges, along with details of action taken against whom complaints were received pertaining to corruption or misconduct. 

    While HC was quick to acknowledge that it has a vigilance branch for ‘‘supervizing and keeping watch on the conduct of trial court judges’’ it chose to be non-transparent when asked to elaborate. For instance, the RTI pleas’ pointed query on details of 10 oldest complaints still pending against trial court judges was shot down, again on the ground that it would cause ‘‘unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual.’’ 

    Similarly, when the RTI plea demanded to know the standards on which performance of judges is evaluated, HC promptly outlines these as — knowledge of law/procedure, disposal of cases, quality of judgments, efficiency, reputation for honesty etc. But it remained unyielding on disclosing anything more. On being pressed for details like ‘‘how many judges have failed to meet the required evaluation consideration’’ or ‘‘what action is taken against a judge who fails to meet the standard’’ — HC relied on its special RTI rule to deny information. 

    The most that the court was willing to reveal was that whenever a complaint is received against any judicial officer, it is ‘‘laid before chief justice for consideration and necessary action is then taken.’’ 

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