Notes taken by stenographer of a judge in shorthand are not public...

Notes taken by stenographer of a judge in shorthand are not public record under RTI

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Recently, in the case of Tapan Choudhury v. Central Information Commission & Ors. [W.P.(C) 8917/2016, decided on September 30, 2016], Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of Delhi high court has held that notes taken by a judge’s stenographer in shorthand notebook are not public record under RTI and therefore copies of such notes cannot be given under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The high court relied upon the full bench decision of Delhi high court in the case of Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, AIR 2010 Delhi 159, in which it had been held that even draft judgments signed and exchanged are not to be considered as final judgment but only a tentative view liable to be changed. It had been held that draft judgment cannot be said to be information held by a public authority. The full bench had held, that the apprehension of the learned Attorney General, that notes or jottings by the Judges or their draft judgments would fall within the purview of Right to Information Act, was misplaced. Notes taken by Judges while hearing a case, it was held, cannot be treated as final views expressed by them on the case and are meant only for the use of the Judges and cannot be held to be a part of a record ‘held’ by the public authority.

Relying upon the above full bench decision, in the present case, the high court held that the petitioner was seeking copies of the shorthand note books in which the Stenographer takes dictation of the Court. In this regard, the high court held as under:

“First of all, shorthand note books, as reported by the CPIO, are not retained and secondly the shorthand note book cannot be equated with a judgment or an order, which forms part of the judicial record. 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.”

Therefore, the refusal of information by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), of furnishing copies of the notes prepared by the stenographer of a judge in his shorthand notebook, was held to be proper.

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