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Disclose details of probe against Balakrishnan: CIC

There is fresh trouble brewing for former chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Law Ministry to disclose the action taken on a request to probe Balakrishnan for alleged misconduct, saying correspondence between the Executive about a former CJI is not privileged correspondence.

Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said that even if it is assumed for a moment that the information regarding ‘action taken’ on a request for probe against a former CJI is privileged, such ‘privilege’ is not expressly provided as a ground for rejection of a request for information under Section 8(1) of the Right to Information Act.

The case pertains to a request by RTI activist Subhash Agrawal for a probe against Balakrishnan for alleged misconduct while he was the CJI through the public grievance portal of the government.
Through his RTI application, Agrawal had sought copies of correspondence, file notings, documents, etc. on action taken on his submission regarding the probe. The information was not provided by the ministry. But Acharyulu held that, ‘the information sought has nothing to do with the privilege of Parliament or state legislature. The correspondence between Executive about a former CJI is not privileged correspondence as per any provision of RTI Act or Constitution of India. It is not information given in fiduciary capacity.’

He said that even if any disclosure of such information about probe against a former CJI would cause harm to ‘protected interest’, Section 8(2) of the RTI Act allows disclosure of the same if the larger public interest is involved. Acharyulu said that non-disclosure of what Agrawal has sought would neither serve any public interest and nor would it harm any protected interest. He said that, in fact, public interest in its disclosure would outweigh the probable harm, if any, to protected (if at all protected) interests.
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