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Constitution bench to decide if SC is exempted from RTI Act

Besides this, another question was 'whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary'

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New Delhi, August 17, 2016: The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will decide whether the apex court is exempted from disclosing information on the appointment of judges and other matters under the Right to Information Act.

The three-judge bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C Pant, and Justice A M Khanwilkar on Wednesday referred the question to the five-judge bench, saying “A substantial questions of law is involved… which are required to be heard.”

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The entire issue is rooted in November 24, 2009, order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) upholding RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal’s plea seeking from the apex court complete information, including file notings, relating to the appointment of Justice H L Dattu, Justice A K Ganguly and Justice R M Lodha (since all retired) superseding their then seniors in various high courts.

Referring the matter to the Constitution bench, the three-judge bench reiterated the three questions framed earlier on November 26, 2010, when the issue was first referred to the Constitution bench by then Justice B Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S S Nijjar.

Citing the delay in hearing of the matter, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench that an impression was gaining ground that when it comes to others, the Supreme Court directs them, even the poll candidates, to disclose their assets but when it comes to judges, it shies away.

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As Bhushan pointed to the delay, Justice Gogoi asked him when did this matter last came up for hearing. When Bhushan told the court that it was sometime in the beginning of 2015, Justice Gogoi asked him, then why he did not mention it for an early hearing.

Reminding Bhushan that he was as much and equal partner in the march of transparency, Justice Gogoi said: “Why should anybody be shy of answering a question” referred by a bench of the Supreme Court.

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Having said this, Justice Gogoi told Bhushan that the matter needed to be heard by the Constitution bench, declining his plea that the issue has already been addressed by the Supreme Court in S P Gupta case.

The bench of Justice B Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S S Nijjar (since both retired) by their November 26, 2010, order had said that the independence of judiciary forms part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

The independence of the judiciary and the fundamental right to free speech and expression are of a great value and both of them are required to be balanced, the order had said.

The court then framed three questions to be examined by the Constitution bench that included “Whether the concept of independence of judiciary requires and demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought” under the RTI Act.

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Besides this, another question was “Whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary.”

November 26, 2010, the order had asked the Constitution bench to examine whether the information sought could not be furnished as same would affect the credibility of the decision and come in the way of free and frank expression of honest opinion amongst the constitutional functionaries.

Lastly, the question referred to the Constitution bench was whether the information sought by the RTI activist Agarwal was exempt under Section 8(i)(j) of the Right to Information Act. (IANS)

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Government Pressure: WhatsApp to Limit Message Forwarding In INDIA

WhatsApp reacted: "In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we'll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

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The app is adding more features to group chats. Wikimedia commons

 Hauled up second time by the government on its failure to check the spread of fake and provocative content on its platform amid growing lynching episodes, Whatsapp on Friday said it is launching a test to limit message forwarding to five chats that will apply to its users in India.

In its second notice on Thursday, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) took a tough stand, asking WhatsApp to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labelling forwards and identifying fake news.

“It has been conveyed to them in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response,” MeitY said in the notice.

WhatsApp reacted: “In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

The test, once comes to practice, will curtail WhatsApp’s services for over 200 million users in India. Globally, the company allows users to forward messages for up to 20 chats (either individuals or groups).

WhatsApp said that with new changes, which it will continue to evaluate, “will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app”.

“We are deeply committed to your safety and privacy which is why WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, and we’ll continue to improve our app with features like this one,” it added.

Whatsapp
“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement. Pixabay

In its first reply to the IT Ministry, WhatsApp said the company is “horrified” by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry had asked WhatsApp to ensure that the platform is not used for malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours being circulated on its platform.

The mobile messiging service listed several measures — including labelling Forwarding messages — in its first reply to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform but failed to meet the requirements from the IT Ministry.

Several people have lost their lives in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the first time admitted in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that fake news on social media has resulted in many mob lynching incidents in the country, saying the government has asked service providers to put a check on rumour mongering on social media.

Also Read-WhatsApp Begins Rolling Out ‘Restrict Group’ Feature For Admins

Expressing concern over the misuse of social media, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu also asked the government to evolve a national policy after discussing with all stakeholders including political parties to combat the menace.

The Supreme Court also issued 22 guidelines this week for the central and state governments to put an end to “horrendous acts” of vigilantism, lynching and mobocracy and directed them to work in tandem to take “preventive, remedial and punitive measures”. (IANS)