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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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India will soon ask Malaysia to extradite Preacher Zakir Naik

India will soon approach Malaysia with a request to extradite hardline Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik
India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik. wikimedia commons
  • India will seek the Malaysian government’s help in extraditing televangelist Zakir Naik who faces charges of money laundering and inciting hatred through his sermons broadcast on Peace TV, the foreign ministry said Friday.

Zakir Naik obtained permanent residency in Malaysia 

Officials will approach their Malaysian counterparts with the extradition request sometime within the next two weeks, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a weekly news briefing in New Delhi.

“Any formal request seeking the assistance of a foreign government in cases of extradition requires a completion of the internal legal process involving consultation with other ministries involved in the case,” Kumar said.

“At this stage, we are nearing the completion of this process and as soon as this process is complete we will be making an official request to the Malaysian government in this matter,” Kumar said. “It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks. But it would be soon and the nature of our request would also be clear.”

Naik fled India a month before terrorist carried out a massacre at a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in July 2016. This week, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the Islamic preacher legally obtained permanent residency in the country, and that Malaysian authorities would arrest him only if he broke local laws or was found to be involved in terrorist activities.

Naik’s speeches allegedly inspired some of the militants who carried out the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, where 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed.

In November 2016, the Indian government banned Naik’s Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation, which partly funded the Peace TV channel that is banned in India, Bangladesh and several other countries.

Kumar said because the Indian government had knowledge of Naik’s whereabouts, the legal procedures would be tailored to requirements between the two countries in their extradition treaty.

Advocate challenges charges

“Naik is being hounded because he hails from a minority community. The charges that the investigating agencies are trying to frame are all stale and are hardly incriminating,” advocate S. Hariharan told BenarNews in a phone interview from Delhi.

“The charges lack veracity and would not stand scrutiny in the court of law. We will be challenging the extradition and deportation.”

Last week, the Indian government filed a 61-page charge sheet against Naik alleging he was involved in a criminal conspiracy by lauding terrorist organizations. In April, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in an alleged case of money laundering through his NGO and a shell company.

In Malaysia meanwhile, the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has urged the government to ignore any request from India to extradite Zakir Naik, Reuters reported.

“For Muslim individuals, even when they won by using arguments and not weapons, like Dr. Zakir Naik, they are considered terrorists because their arguments cannot be countered,” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang wrote last week in an opinion piece published in Harakah Daily.(BenarNews)