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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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Supreme Court of India. Wikimedia commons

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 Prepares Comprehensive Plan For Revival of BSNL

It also noted that a Coordination Committee comprising senior officers of the DoT, BSNL management, and representatives of AUAB is already working in this regard

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BSNL is providing mobile services in Kashmir. Image Source: www.freejobsinfo.in

The government is making all efforts to make state-run BSNL robust and financially viable again and has prepared a comprehensive plan for its revival, an official said on Sunday, on the eve of a nationwide strike called by the employees unions over their demands.

BSNL employees and officers have given a three-day country-wide strike call from February 18 to highlight their long-pending issues, including allotment of 4G spectrum to the telecom major and wage revision for the workforce.

“All efforts are being made, and will continue to be made, to make BSNL robust and financially viable,” a Communications Ministry statement said.

“The main demands of the All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam (AUAB) include benefits to executives under the 3rd Pay Revision Committee (PRC) with 15 per cent fitment and to non-executives as per the 8th wage negotiations w.e.f. 1.1.2017, allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL, revision of pension for BSNL retirees w.e.f. 1.1.2017 and delinking of same with pay revision for PRC implementation, and deduction of payment of pension contribution by BSNL on actual basic pay instead of on the highest level of the pay scale.

“Government wishes to re-emphasize that it will continue to engage with the BSNL management and representatives of the unions and associations, to support their reasonable demands, and to guide the organization towards a revival,” it said.

The SIM will now be available for employees of Patanjali only.
Comprehensive plan prepared for BSNL’s revival: Government.

Noting that the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) is taking “positive steps” regarding each of these demands, the ministry said the issue of alloting 4G spectrum to BSNL is being referred to telecom regulator TRAI “to recommend on the issue of administrative allocation, quantum, price and appropriate frequency band”.

“Further action will be taken on receipt of the said recommendation. In parallel, a comprehensive proposal for revival of BSNL has been prepared, which will be taken up for consideration by competent authorities very soon.”

It also noted that a Coordination Committee comprising senior officers of the DoT, BSNL management, and representatives of AUAB is already working in this regard.

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“Representatives of AUAB have also held meetings with the DOT Additional Secretary in which they have been duly apprised of the progress being made in relation to their demands,” the statement said.

It pointed out that the BSNL management has appealed to its employees not to resort to any agitation at this critical juncture when the organization is engaged in “sincere and serious efforts” to protect and enhance the company’s market share, “and when any disruption in services can only adversely impact the interests of BSNL and its customers, employees and other stakeholders.” (IANS)