My question is myself being Judgment debtor in execution, in an order passed by judge on interlocutory application, there is a quote regarding interlocutory application annexed with exhibited documents relating to suit property by decree holder. Actually such application does not exist since I am appearing as party in person for last 5 years. The case has history of 22 years. So I applied under RTI Act for getting the aforesaid non-existing record from the court. They refused to give it and asked me to get it by making an application to the copying section. There is no response from the copying section on three applications made in this regard. Please guide me. Whether I am eligible to file an RTI application for judicial records in court?
Answer: Legally speaking, information relating to “judicial records” is not excluded from the information which is required to be provided under the Right to Information Act, 2005. However, most of the courts do not provide information relating to judicial records under RTI. Many of the courts have specifically made rules that restrict providing of information relating to judicial records, though in vague language.
For example, under Rule 5(a) of the Delhi High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006, “such information which relates to judicial functions and duties of the Court and matters incidental and ancillary thereto”, is exempted from disclosure of information (see here).
Since you have not mentioned the court where your matter is pending, you’ll have to check the relevant rules, if any, made by such court or by any superior court thereof.
Let me point out as to how the RTI Act does not contain any restriction on supply of information relating to the judicial records (and, yet such information is not being supplied, generally, by most courts). Relevant provisions of the RTI Act have been reproduced at the end of this answer.
Firstly, the definition of “information” under 2(f) of the said Act does not exclude information relating to judicial records. Secondly, courts are covered within the meaning of “public authority” defined under Section 2(h) of the Act. Thus, the judiciary or the courts are required to provide such information, unless there is some provision in the said Act that restricts supply of such information.
The only provisions in the RTI Act that can restrict supply of information are contained in Section 24, 8, 9 and 11 of the Act.
Under Section 24 of the RTI Act, it is laid down that the provisions of this Act do not apply to certain intelligence and security organisation as are mentioned therein. Judiciary or courts are not such organisations.
Section 8 places restrictions on supply of certain information mentioned in that section. The only relevant provisions which could possibly apply in your case could have been clauses (b) and/or (e) of Section 8(1), but they don’t apply here. As per clause (b), there shall be no obligation to give “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”. However, this provision appears to be applicable only if there is an order of a court passed in its judicial capacity. In your case, there does not appear to be any such order. A general order passed in administrative capacity of the court, or any rules made by a court, are supposed to be not covered under this clause. Similarly, clause (e) of Section 8(1) says that there shall be no obligation to provide “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”. However, this clause will also not apply in your case since you are a party to the case in which you are seeking information and such information deserves to be provided to you even in larger public interest, since otherwise how can you defend your case.
Section 9 of the Act places restrictions on supply of information which may involve infringement of a copyright. This is also not applicable in your case.
Section 11 places certain restrictions on supply of certain third party information. In the present case, it can perhaps be claimed that the interlocutory application sought by you may relate to third-party information. However, since you are a party to the case, you have a right to get copies of all relevant applications filed in the case, and the third-party principle cannot apply in your case.
Therefore, it may be seen that information relating to judicial records sought by you should be made available to you, since it is not exempted under any provisions of the RTI Act. Yet, most of the courts do not provide such information, as mentioned above. This is impermissible under law. But, the law is interpreted by the courts themselves. Also, it appears that such restrictions have (perhaps) not been challenged in courts on their judicial side or before the Supreme Court on its judicial side.
So, the option before you is to file an appeal, against the refusal of RTI information, to the first appellate authority, and then to the Central or State Information Commission, as the case may be. If need be, after that, you can challenge it before the High Court concerned and before the Supreme Court. I know it may not be possible for you to do it. But, then, someone may perhaps will have to do it at some point of time. Otherwise, such impermissible rules will continue to exist.
The second option before you is to pursue with the Copy Section of the court, and if need be, approach the senior officers (such as Registrar) of the court to direct the Copy Section to give you the copy of the application desired by you.
The third option may perhaps be to file a formal interlocutory application (or, by whatever name it is called in that court) before the court itself (where your case is pending) for seeking direction to the Copy Section or the Registry of the Court to give you copy of the application sought by you.
If you fail in the efforts so made, you may have to pursue the case before the next higher court or authority, as the case may be.
These are the only legal or lawful options available, as far as I can think of.
2(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;
2(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;
8. Exemption from disclosure of information.—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
(b) 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;
(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(e) 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;
(f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
(g) information, the disclosure of which would 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;
(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:
Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:
Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;
(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information:
Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
(2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923) nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
(3) Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under Section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section:
Provided that where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act.
9. Grounds for rejection to access in certain cases.—Without prejudice to the provisions of Section 8, a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may reject a request for information where such a request for providing access would involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the State.
11. Third-party information.—(1) Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the 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 the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information:
Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.
(2) Where a notice is served by the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, under sub-section (1) to a third party in respect of any information or record or part thereof, the third party shall, within ten days from the date of receipt of such notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within forty days after receipt of the request under Section 6, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub-section (2), make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.
(4) A notice given under sub-section (3) shall include a statement that the third party to whom the notice is given is entitled to prefer an appeal under Section 19 against the decision.
24. Act not to apply to certain organisations.—(1) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government:
Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:
Provided further that in the case of (sic if) information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission, and notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.
(2) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, amend the Schedule by including therein any other intelligence or security organisation established by that Government or omitting therefrom any organisation already specified therein and on the publication of such notification, such organisation shall be deemed to be included in or, as the case may be, omitted from the Schedule.
(3) Every notification issued under sub-section (2) shall be laid before each House of Parliament.
(4) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to such intelligence and security organisation being organisations established by the State Government, as that Government may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify:
Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:
Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the State Information Commission and, notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.
(5) Every notification issued under sub-section (4) shall be laid before the State Legislature.