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Draft orders of judges cannot be made public, says CIC

Relying on a Supreme Court order in which it was observed that “judges may, and often do, discuss the matter among themselves and reach a tentative conclusion. That is not their judgement. They may write and exchange drafts. Those are not the judgements either, however heavily and often they may have been signed...” 

“Even the draft judgement signed and exchanged is not to be considered as final judgement but only tentative view liable to be changed. A draft judgement therefore, obviously cannot be said to be information held by a public authority,” it had said.

The case related to one Milap Choraria who had sought to know from the Calcutta High Court the rules under which the draft order was destroyed.

The high court had said Choraria is seeking draft order of the judge which is confidential and not public document.

“The respondent stated that the photo copies of the order prior to its finalisation cannot be supplied since it has been destroyed as per usual practice. The respondent stated that the High Court’s Rules are available on its website,” Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur noted.

The high court had sought dismissal of the application on three grounds.

Firstly, that his first appeal was barred by law of limitation and no reason has been given to condone the delay.

Secondly, draft order which is not signed by the judge is not a public document.

Thirdly, appellant is seeking legal opinion, which is not the “information” as per the definition of the information under the RTI Act.

Dismissing the appeal and relying on the Supreme Court order, Mathur said, “Even if the appellant could have filed this appeal with delay condone application; the information sought by the appellant cannot be disclosed.” 

Notes of judges’ stenos don’t come under RTI: HC

Notes dictated by a judge to a stenographer during the hearing of a case would not be considered as a record held by a public authority and hence cannot be sought under the Right to Information Act, Delhi High Court has ruled.

“Shorthand notebook can at best be treated as a memo of what is dictated to a steno to be later transcribed into a draft judgment or an order.

“When draft judgments and order do not form part of a ‘record’ held by a public authority, a shorthand note book which is memo of what is dictated and which would later be typed to become a draft judgment or an order can certainly not be held to be ‘record’ held by a public authority,”

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said. The court further clarified that shorthand note books were not retained and cannot be equated with a judgment or an order, which forms part of the judicial record.

The ruling came in a judgement dismissing the plea of a man seeking copies of the shorthand note books in which the stenographer takes dictation of the court. The court upheld the March 7 order of Central Information Commission (CIC) by which petitioner Tapan Choudhury was denied copies of shorthand notes taken in the high court on May 27, 2013.

The petitioner was denied the information by the Public Information Officer of the high court, who said that shorthand notes were not retained.

The first appellate authority had also held that “no such record was maintained and thus the same cannot be furnished” to the petitioner. Justice Sachdeva in his decision also relied on a full bench judgement of the high court, which had held that even draft judgments signed and exchanged are not to be considered as final judgment but only a tentative view liable to change.
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