Thursday, 5 March 2020

Supreme Court: If party can obtain certified copy,they should not file application under RTI

43. We summarise our conclusion:-
(i) Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules stipulating
a third party to have access to the
information/obtaining the certified copies of the
documents or orders requires to file an
application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking
the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions
of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different
procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for
obtaining information. In the absence of inherent
inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act
and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not
apply.
(ii) The information to be accessed/certified copies on
the judicial side to be obtained through the
mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the
provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).1966-1967 OF 2020

CHIEF INFORMATION COMMISSIONER Vs  HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT 

R. BANUMATHI, J.
Dated:March 04, 2020.

Leave granted.
2. The point falling for determination in this appeal is as regards
the right of a third party to apply for certified copies to be obtained
from the High Court by invoking the provisions of Right to
Information Act without resorting to Gujarat High Court Rules
prescribed by the High Court.
3. Brief facts which led to filing of this appeal are as follows:-
An RTI application dated 05.04.2010 was filed by respondent
No.2 seeking information pertaining to the following cases – Civil
Application No.5517 of 2003 and Civil Application No.8072 of 1989

along with all relevant documents and certified copies. In reply, by
letter dated 29.04.2010, Public Information Officer, Gujarat High
Court informed respondent No.2 that for obtaining required copies,
he should make an application personally or through his advocate
on affixing court fees stamp of Rs.3/- with requisite fee to the
“Deputy Registrar”. It was further stated that as respondent No.2 is
not a party to the said proceedings, as per Rule 151 of the Gujarat
High Court Rules, 1993, his application should be accompanied by
an affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies are
required and on making such application, he will be supplied the
certified copies of the documents as per Rules 149 to 154 of the
Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993.
4. Being aggrieved, respondent No.2 preferred Appeal No.84 of
2010 before the Appellate Authority-Registrar Administration under
Section 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short “RTI Act”).
The appeal was dismissed vide order dated 04.08.2010 on the
ground that for obtaining certified copies, the alternative efficacious
remedy is already available under the Gujarat High Court Rules,
1993 and that under the provisions of RTI Act, no certified copies
can be provided.
5. Respondent No.2 then filed Second Appeal No.1437 of 2010-
11 before the Appellant-Chief Information Commissioner and notice

was sent to respondent No.1. Respondent No.1-High Court filed its
response reiterating the position that there are provisions under
Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat High Court Rules for anybody who
wants to obtain the certified copies as per which,
application/affidavit should be filed stating the grounds for which the
documents are required and with requisite court fee stamps.
Respondent No.1 stated that despite the letter dated 02.07.2010 by
the Deputy Registrar (CC Section), Decree Department, Gujarat
High Court to respondent No.2 informing him of the procedure for
getting certified copies, respondent No.2 has not made application
as per the rules of the High Court and that the Public Information
Officer cannot be compelled to breach the High Court Rules and
hence, the appeal filed before the Chief Information Commissioner
(CIC) is liable to be dismissed. Relying upon Sections 6(2) and 22
of the RTI Act, the appellant-Chief Information Commissioner vide
its order dated 04.04.2013 directed Public Information Officer of the
Gujarat High Court to provide the information sought by respondent
No.2 within twenty days.
6. Challenging the order of Chief Information Commissioner,
respondent No.1 filed Special Civil Application No.7880 of 2013
before the High Court. The learned Single Judge, while admitting
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the petition, passed an interim order dated 11.10.2013 directing
respondent No.1 to provide the information sought by respondent
No.2 within four weeks. The learned Single Judge held that the
legality and validity of the direction given by the appellant and the
right of respondent No.2 to receive the copies under RTI Act will be
considered at the stage of final hearing. It was however clarified that
supply of information by respondent No.1 shall not be construed as
acceptance of applicability of RTI Act to the High Court.
7. Being aggrieved by the interim order, respondent No.1-High
Court preferred Letters Patent Appeal No.1348 of 2013 before the
Division Bench contending that the party who seeks certified copies
has to make an application along with the copying charges and
requisite court fees stamp as per Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat
High Court Rules. As per the Rules, if the certified copy is sought by
a person who is not a party to the litigation, his application has to be
accompanied by an affidavit stating therein the purpose for which he
requires the certified copies. Vide impugned order, the High Court
allowed the Letters Patent Appeal holding that when a particular
field is governed by the rules which are not declared ultra-vires,
then there is no question of applying the fresh rules and make the
situation confusing. The High Court held that in the light of the High
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Court Rules, certified copies may be given on payment of charges
as per the Rules and also the applicant (respondent No.2) has to
file an affidavit disclosing the purpose for which the certified copies
are required and there is no question of making an application
under the RTI Act. The Division Bench set aside the order of the
Chief Information Commissioner by observing that when a copy is
demanded by any person, the same has to be in accordance with
the Rules of the High Court on the subject.
8. As the question involved is concerned with all the High Courts
and having regard to the importance of the matter, we have
requested Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni, learned Additional Solicitor
General (ASG) to appear as amicus curiae to assist the Court which
the learned ASG readily agreed. Mr. Nadkarni collected information
from all the High Courts and filed a compilation of the information
obtained by him about the Rules framed by various High Courts in
exercise of their power under Article 225 of the Constitution of India
and under Section 28 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
9. Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, learned Senior counsel for the appellant
has contended that Section 6(2) of the RTI Act specifically provides
that an applicant making a request for information shall not be
required to give reasons for requesting the information sought and
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whereas under the Gujarat High Court Rules, applications made by
third parties seeking copies of the documents shall be accompanied
by an affidavit stating the grounds on which they are required and
there is direct inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act
and the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993. It was submitted that in
view of the inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act and
the Gujarat High Court Rules, harmonious construction between the
two is not possible and in the event of conflict between the
provisions of RTI Act and any other law made by the Parliament or
State Legislature or any other authority, the former must prevail. It
was submitted that Section 22 of the RTI Act specifically provides
that the provisions of the RTI Act will have an overriding effect over
any other laws for the time being in force. The learned Senior
counsel submitted that the High Court Rules have been framed in
exercise of the powers under Article 225 of the Constitution of India
which would be subject to any other law and the non-obstante
clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act shows that the provisions of the
RTI Act would override the High Court Rules. The learned Senior
counsel inter alia relied upon the recent judgment of the
Constitution Bench in Central Public Information Officer, Supreme
Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40.
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10. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel appearing for the
intervenors submitted that there can be no apprehension that
allowing an applicant to seek information from the High Court under
RTI Act can prejudicially affect the privacy/rights of other parties or
the administration of justice. Reiterating the submission of Senior
counsel, Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, Mr. Prashant Bhushan submitted that
Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules is not in consonance with
Section 6(2) of the RTI Act and the provisions of RTI Act prevails
over the relevant Rules of Public Authorities/Gujarat High Court
Rules. Taking us through Section 22 of the RTI Act, learned
counsel submitted that RTI Act is a general law made by the
Parliament with the avowed object of dissemination of information
and ensuring transparency in the functioning of the Public
Authorities and in view of non obstante clause of Section 22 of the
RTI Act, in case of any conflict regarding “access to information
from public authorities”, the provisions of RTI Act will prevail over
any other law. In support of his contention, the learned counsel
placed reliance upon Institute of Companies Secretaries of India v.
Paras Jain 2019 SCC Online SC 764 and the Constitution Bench
judgment in Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
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11. Mr. Aniruddha P. Mayee, learned counsel appearing for
respondent No.1-High Court of Gujarat submitted that the Gujarat
High Court Rules 149 to 154 do not stipulate anything contra to
Section 22 of the RTI Act and the Gujarat High Court Rule 151 is in
consonance with the RTI Act. The learned counsel submitted that
respondent No.2 was only informed to make an application as per
the procedure stipulated under the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993
and since respondent No.2 was not a party to the proceedings, he
was informed that his application shall be accompanied with an
affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies are
required. The learned counsel submitted that when an efficacious
remedy is available under Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules
which is in consonance with the provisions of RTI Act, the provisions
of the RTI Act cannot be invoked and the High Court rightly held that
there is no question of making an application under the RTI Act and
rightly quashed the order of the appellant-Chief Information
Commissioner.
12. Mr. Nadkarni, learned amicus has taken us through the
information received from the various High Courts and submitted
that in exercise of power under Article 225 of the Constitution of
India, the High Court Rules are framed and the Rules provide for a
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mode for furnishing of information by way of certified copies to
persons who are party to the litigation after making payment of
requisite fees. It was submitted that insofar as third parties i.e.
persons who are not party to the litigation are concerned, the same
is also provided under the Rules, if the third party files an affidavit
stating the reasonable grounds to receive such information/certified
copies. The learned amicus submitted that there is no inconsistency
between the RTI Act and the Rules framed by the High Court so as
to furnish information. It was also submitted that although Section
22 of the RTI Act has an overriding effect over any other laws, in
case there are inconsistencies, Section 22 of the RTI Act does not
contemplate to override those legislations which also aim to ensure
access to information. The learned amicus submitted that so far as
the information on the judicial side of the High Court, the Rules
framed by the High Court provide for dissemination of information to
third party as per the High Court Rules by filing an application with
requisite fee and filing an affidavit stating the grounds. Insofar as
the information on the administrative side of the High Court, the
learned amicus submitted that access to such information could be
had through the Rules framed by the various High Courts and the
Rules framed under the RTI Act by the High Courts. Drawing our
attention to the judgment of the Delhi High Court in The Registrar,
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Supreme Court of India v. RS Misra (2017) 244 DLT 179 and
judgment of the Karnataka High Court in Karnataka Information
Commissioner v. State Public Information Officer and another
WP(C) No.9418 of 2008, the learned amicus submitted that the
High Courts have taken a consistent view that the information can
be accessed through the mechanism provided under the Supreme
Court Rules, 2013 and the High Court Rules and once any
information can be accessed through the mechanism provided
under the Statute or the Rules framed, the provisions of the RTI Act
cannot be resorted to.
13. We have carefully considered the contentions and perused
the impugned judgment and materials on record. The following
points arise for consideration in this appeal:-
(i) Whether Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993
stipulating that for providing copy of documents to the third
parties, they are required to file an affidavit stating the
reasons for seeking certified copies, suffers from any
inconsistency with the provisions of RTI Act?
(ii) When there are two machineries to provide
information/certified copies – one under the High Court
Rules and another under the RTI Act, in the absence of
any inconsistency in the High Court Rules, whether the
provisions of RTI Act can be resorted to for obtaining
certified copy/information?
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14. Section 2(f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 explains the
meaning of the term “information” which reads as under:-
2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………
(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;
15. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines “public authority”. The
term “public authority” has been given very wide meaning in the
RTI Act. Section 2(h) of the RTI Act reads as under:-
2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………
(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;
16. Section 2(i) of the RTI Act defines “record” which is an
inclusive definition. Section 2(j) explains “right to information”.
Sections 2(i) and 2(j) of the RTI Act read as under:-
2. Definitions. – In this Act, unless, the context otherwise requires,-
………
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(i) "record" includes—
(i) any document, manuscript and file;
(ii) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a
document;
(iii)any reproduction of image or images embodied in such
microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
(iv) any other material produced by a computer or any other
device;
(j) "right to information" means the right to information accessible
under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public
authority and includes the right to—
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;
(ii)taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or
records;
(iii) taking certified samples of material;
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies,
tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or
through printouts where such information is stored in a
computer or in any other device;
17. Section 8(1) of the RTI Act provides for exemption from
disclosure of information. Right to information is subject to
exceptions or exemptions stated in Section 8(1)(a) to 8(1)(j) of the
RTI Act. There are ten clauses of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.
Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 8 deals with information that
would compromise the sovereignty or integrity of the country and
like matter; clause (b) covers any 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; clause
(c) covers such matters which would cause a breach of privilege of
the Parliament or the State Legislatures; clause (d) protects
information of commercial nature and trade secrets and intellectual
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property; clause (e) exempts the disclosure of any 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; clause (f) prevents
information being disseminated, if it is received in confidence from
any foreign Government; clause (g) exempts the disclosure of any
information which 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; clause (h)
bars access to such information which would impede the process of
investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; clause (i)
forbids records and papers relating to deliberations of ministers and
officers of the executive being made available, subject to a proviso;
and, clause (j) prohibits disclosure of personal information unless
there is an element of public interest involved.
18. In Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India
v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40, the Supreme
Court upheld the order passed by the Central Information
Commissioner directing the CPIO, Supreme Court of India to furnish
information as to the assets declared by the Hon’ble Judges of the
Supreme Court. The Constitution Bench held that such disclosure
would not, in any way, impinge upon the personal information and
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right to privacy of the Judges. The fiduciary relationship rule in
terms of Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act was held inapplicable.
Learned counsel appearing for the parties extensively relied upon
the observations of the Supreme Court in Subhash Chandra
Agarwal. Since the issue before us is the High Court Rules vis-avis.,
the RTI Act, we do not propose to refer the various
observations copiously relied upon by the learned counsel
appearing for the parties.
19. Article 124 relates to the establishment and constitution of the
Supreme Court. Article 124 states that the Supreme Court of India
consist of Chief Justice of India and other Judges. Under Article 145
of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may, from time to time, with
the approval of the President, make Rules for regulating generally
the Practice and Procedure of the Court. In exercise of the powers
under Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has framed
“Supreme Court Rules”. Order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules lays
down the procedure in respect of grant of certified copies of
pleadings, judgments, documents, decrees or orders, deposition of
the witnesses, etc. to the parties to the litigation and also to the third
parties. The parties to a proceeding in the Supreme Court shall be
entitled to obtain certified copies by making appropriate application
14
and the court fees payable as per the “Supreme Court Rules”. So
far as the third parties are concerned, as per Order XIII Rule 2 of
the Supreme Court Rules, the court on the application of a person
who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, pending or
disposed of, may on good cause shown, allow such person to
receive such copies as is or are mentioned in the Order XIII Rule 1
of the Supreme Court Rules. Thus, as per the Supreme Court
Rules also, the third party is required to show good cause for
obtaining certified copies of the documents or orders.
20. Article 216 relates to the constitution of High Courts. Every
High Court consists of a Chief Justice and other Judges as the
President of India may from time to time appoint. The High Court
Rules are framed under Article 225 of the Constitution of India. The
procedure followed for furnishing of copies/certified copies of
orders/documents etc., being information on the judicial side, are
governed by the Rules framed by the High Court under Article 225
of the Constitution of India. Insofar as the RTI Act is concerned, in
exercise of the powers under Section 28 of the RTI Act, various
High Courts have framed the Rules under RTI Act and the
information on the administrative side of the High Court can be
15
accessed as per the Rules framed by the High Courts under RTI
Act.
21. In the present case, we are concerned with Gujarat High
Court Rules. Grant of certified copies to parties to the litigation and
third parties are governed by Rules 149 to 154 of Gujarat High
Court Rules. As per the Rules, on filing of application with
prescribed court fees stamp, litigants/parties to the proceedings are
entitled to receive the copies of documents/orders/judgments etc.
The third parties who are not parties in any of the proceedings, shall
not be given the copies of judgments and other documents without
the order of the Assistant Registrar. As per Rule 151 of the Gujarat
High Court Rules, the applications requesting for copies of
documents/judgments made by third parties, shall be accompanied
by an affidavit stating the grounds for which they are required. Rule
151 reads as under:-
“151. Parties to proceedings entitled to copies; application by
third parties to be accompanied by affidavits. Copies of
documents in any Civil or Criminal Proceedings and copies of
judgment of the High Court shall not be given to persons other
than the parties thereto without the order of the Assistant
Registrar. Applications for copies of documents or judgment
made by third parties shall be accompanied by an affidavit stating
the grounds on which they are required, provided that such
affidavit shall be dispensed with in case of applications made by
or on behalf of the Government of the Union, the Government of
any State or the Government of any foreign State.”
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22. The learned amicus has obtained information from various
High Courts as to the procedure followed by the High Courts for
furnishing certified copies of orders/judgments/documents. As per
the Rules framed by various High Courts, parties to the proceedings
are entitled to obtain certified copies of orders/judgments/documents
on filing of application along with prescribed court fees stamp.
Insofar as furnishing of certified copies to third parties, the Rules
framed by the High Courts stipulate that the certified copies of
documents/orders or judgments or copies of proceedings would be
furnished to the third parties only on the orders passed by the court
or the Registrar, on being satisfied about the reasonable cause and
bona fide of the reasons seeking the information/certified copies of
the documents. We may refer to the Rules framed by the High
Courts of Bombay, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madras
and various other High Courts which stipulate similar provisions for
furnishing information/certified copies to third parties. The Rules
stipulate that for the third parties to have access to the information
on the judicial side or obtaining certified copies of
documents/judgments/orders, the third parties will have to make an
application stating the reasons for which they are required and on
payment of necessary court fees stamp. As pointed out earlier,
Supreme Court Rules also stipulate that certified copies of
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documents or orders could be supplied to the third parties only on
being satisfied about the reasonable cause. Be it noted, the access
to the information or certified copies of the
documents/judgments/orders/court proceedings are not denied to
the third parties. The Rules of the High Court only stipulate that the
third parties will have to file an application/affidavit stating the
reasons for which the information/certified copies are required. The
Rules framed by the Gujarat High Court are in consonance with the
provisions of the RTI Act. There is no inconsistency between the
provisions of the RTI Act with the Rules framed by the High Court in
exercise of the powers under Article 225 of the Constitution of India.
23. Mr. Preetesh Kapoor, learned Senior counsel for the appellant
has submitted that Section 6(2) of the RTI Act grants a substantive
right and the person who is seeking information/copies is not
required to give any reason and this right cannot be curtailed or
whittled down by procedural laws framed by the High Court under
Article 225 of the Constitution of India. In support of his contention
that the rules framed by the High Court in exercise of powers under
Article 225 cannot make or curtail any substantive law, reliance was
placed upon Raj Kumar Yadav v. Samir Kumar Mahaseth and
Others (2005) 3 SCC 601. Learned Senior counsel further
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submitted that Section 22 of the RTI Act specifically provides that
the provisions of the RTI Act will have an overriding effect over other
laws for the time being in force. It was therefore, submitted that in
the event of any conflict between the provisions of the RTI Act and
any other laws made by the Parliament or a State Legislature or any
other authority, the provisions of the RTI Act must prevail and
therefore, the RTI Act would prevail over the rules framed by the
High Court. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel for the
intervention applicants also reiterated the same submission.
24. In order to consider the contentions urged by the learned
Senior counsel for the appellant and Mr. Prashant Bhushan, let us
briefly refer to the various categories of information held by the High
Court, which are broadly as under:-
(a) information held by the High Court relating to the
parties to the litigation/proceedings – pleadings,
documents and other materials and memo of grounds
raised by the parties;
(b) orders and judgments passed by the High Court,
notes of proceedings, etc.;
(c) In exercise of power of superintendence over the
other courts and tribunals, information received in the
records submitted/called for by those courts and
tribunals like subordinate judiciary, various tribunals
like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs Excise
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and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and other
tribunals;
(d) information on the administrative side of the High
Court viz. appointments, transfers and postings of the
judicial officers, staff members of the High Court and
the district judiciary, disciplinary action taken against
the judicial officers and the staff members and such
other information relating to the administrative work.
(e) Correspondence by the High Court with the Supreme
Court, Government and with the district judiciary, etc.;
and
(f) information on the administrative side as to the
decision taken by the collegium of the High Court in
making recommendations of the Judges to be
appointed to the High Court; information as to the
assets of the sitting Judges held by the Chief Justice
of the High Court.
25. Information under the categories (a), (b) and (c) and other
information on the judicial side can be accessed/certified copies of
documents and orders could be obtained by the parties to the
proceedings in terms of the High Court Rules and the parties to the
proceedings are entitled to the same. So far as the third parties are
concerned, as of right, they are not entitled to access the
information/obtain the certified copies of documents, orders and
other proceedings. As per rules framed by the High Court, a third
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party can obtain the certified copies of the documents, orders or
judgments or can have access to the information only by filing an
application/affidavit and by stating the reason for which the
information/copies of documents or orders are required. Insofar as
on the administrative side i.e. categories (d), (e) and (f), one can
have access to the information or copies of the documents could be
obtained under the rules framed by the various High Courts or
under the rules framed by the High Court under the RTI Act. Insofar
as the disclosure of information as to the assets of the Judges held
by the Chief Justice of the High Court, the same is now covered by
the judgment of the Constitution Bench reported in Central Public
Information Officer, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra
Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40.
26. The preamble to the RTI Act suggests that the Act was
enacted “to promote transparency and accountability in the working
of every public authority…….”. The Act was enacted by keeping in
view the right of “an informed citizenry and transparency of
information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain
corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities
accountable to the governed…..”. The preamble opens with a
reference to the Constitution having established a democratic
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republic and the need therefore, for an informed citizenry. The
preamble reveals that legislature was conscious of the likely conflict
with other public interest including efficient operations of the
Governments and optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the
preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information and the
necessity to harmonise these conflicting interests. A citizen of India
has every right to ask for any information subject to the limitation
prescribed under the Act. The right to seek information is only to
fulfill the objectives of the Act laid down in the preamble, that is, to
promote transparency of information.
27. Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 requires a
third party applicant seeking copies of documents in any civil or
criminal proceedings to file an application/affidavit stating the
reasons for which those documents are required. As such, the High
Court Rules do not obstruct a third party from obtaining copies of
documents in any court proceedings or any document on the judicial
side. It is not as if the information is denied or refused to the
applicant. All that is required to be done is to apply for the certified
copies with application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the
information. The reason insisting upon the third party for stating the
grounds for obtaining certified copies is to satisfy the court that the
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information is sought for bona fide reasons or to effectuate public
interest. The information is held by the High Court as a trustee for
the litigants in order to adjudicate upon the matter and administer
justice. The same cannot be permitted by the third party to have
access to such personal information of the parties or information
given by the Government in the proceedings. Lest, there would be
misuse of process of court and the information and it would reach
unmanageable levels. If the High Court Rules framed under
Article 225 provide a mechanism for invoking the said right in a
particular manner, the said mechanism should be preserved and
followed. The said mechanism cannot be abandoned or
discontinued merely because the general law – RTI Act has been
enacted.
28. As discussed earlier, the object of the RTI Act itself recognizes
the need to protect the institutional interest and also to make
optimum use of limited fiscal resources and preservation of
confidentiality of sensitive information. The procedure to obtain
certified copies under the High Court Rules is not cumbersome and
the procedure is very simple – filing of an application/affidavit along
with the requisite court fee stating the reasons for seeking the
information. The information held by the High Court on the judicial
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side are the “personal information” of the litigants like title cases and
family court matters, etc. Under the guise of seeking information
under the RTI Act, the process of the court is not to be abused and
information not to be misused.
29. In exercise of supervisory jurisdiction under Article 227 of the
Constitution of India, if the records are received by the High Court
from tribunals like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, it may contain the
details disclosed by an assessee in his Income Tax Return. As held
in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande v. Central Information
Commissioner and Others (2013) 1 SSC 212, the details disclosed
by a person in his Income Tax Return are personal information
which stands exempted from disclosure unless it involves a larger
public interest and the larger public interest justifies the disclosure
of such information. While seeking information or certified copies of
the documents, the High Court Rules which require the third party to
a proceeding to file an affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the
information, the same cannot be said to be inconsistent with the
provisions of the RTI Act in as much as the rejection if any, made
thereafter will be for the very reasons as stipulated in Section 8 of
the RTI Act.
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30. Considering the implementation of RTI Act and observing that
the existing mechanism for invoking the said right should be
preserved and operated, in Institute of Chartered Accountants of
India v. Shaunak H. Satya and Others (2011) 8 SCC 781, the
Supreme Court held as under:-
“24. One of the objects of democracy is to bring about
transparency of information to contain corruption and bring about
accountability. But achieving this object does not mean that other
equally important public interests including efficient functioning of
the governments and public authorities, optimum use of limited
fiscal resources, preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information, etc. are to be ignored or sacrificed. The object of the
RTI Act is to harmonise the conflicting public interests, that is,
ensuring transparency to bring in accountability and containing
corruption on the one hand, and at the same time ensure that the
revelation of information, in actual practice, does not harm or
adversely affect other public interests which include efficient
functioning of the governments, optimum use of limited fiscal
resources and preservation of confidentiality of sensitive
information, on the other hand. While Sections 3 and 4 seek to
achieve the first objective, Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 seek to achieve
the second objective.
25. Therefore, when Section 8 exempts certain information from
being disclosed, it should not be considered to be a fetter on the
right to information, but as an equally important provision protecting
other public interests essential for the fulfilment and preservation of
democratic ideals. Therefore, in dealing with information not falling
under Sections 4(1)(b) and (c), the competent authorities under the
RTI Act will not read the exemptions in Section 8 in a restrictive
manner but in a practical manner so that the other public interests
are preserved and the RTI Act attains a fine balance between its
goal of attaining transparency of information and safeguarding the
other public interests.”
31. While examining the issue of where two mechanisms exist for
obtaining the information i.e. the Supreme Court Rules and the RTI
25
Act, in The Registrar Supreme Court of India v. R S Misra (2017)
244 DLT 179, the Delhi High Court held that “once any information
can be accessed through the mechanism provided under another
statute, then the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to.” In
(2017) 244 DLT 179, the Delhi High Court held as under:-
“53. The preamble shows that the RTI Act has been enacted only to
make accessible to the citizens the information with the public
authorities which W.P.(C) 3530/2011 Page 22 of 36 hitherto was not
available. Neither the Preamble of the RTI Act nor does any other
provision of the Act disclose the purport of the RTI Act to provide
additional mode for accessing information with the public authorities
which has already formulated rules and schemes for making the
said information available. Certainly if the said rules, regulations
and schemes do not provide for accessing information which has
been made accessible under the RTI Act, resort can be had to the
provision of the RTI Act but not to duplicate or to multiply the modes
of accessing information.
54. This Court is further of the opinion that if any information can be
accessed through the mechanism provided under another statute,
then the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to as there is
absence of the very basis for invoking the provisions of RTI Act,
namely, lack of transparency. In other words, the provisions of RTI
Act are not to be resorted to if the same are not actuated to achieve
transparency.
55. Section 2(j) of the RTI Act reveals that the said Act is concerned
only with that information, which is under the exclusive control of
the 'public authority'. Providing copies/certified copies is not
separate from providing information. The SCR not only deal with
providing 'certified copies' of judicial records but also deal with
providing 'not a certified copy' or simply a 'copy' of the document.
26
The certification of the records is done by the Assistant
Registrar/Branch Officer or any officer on behalf of the Registrar. In
the opinion of this Court, in case of a statute which contemplates
dissemination of information as provided for by the Explanation to
Section 4 of the RTI Act then in such situation, public will have
minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain such information.
56. There are other provisions of the RTI Act which support the said
position, namely, Sections 4(2), (3) and (4) which contemplate that
if an information is disseminated then the public will have minimum
resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain information. In the present
case, the dissemination of information under the provisions of the
SCR squarely fits into the definition of “disseminated” as provided
in the aforesaid Explanation to Section 7(9) and the Preamble
contemplate a bar for providing information if it „disproportionally
diverts the resources of the public authority”.
57. Section 4(2) also provides that it shall be constant endeavour of
every public authority to take steps in accordance with the
requirements of subSection (1) thereof and to provide as much
information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through
various means of communications including intervals so that the
public has minimum resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain
information.” [Underlining added]
The same view was taken up by the Karnataka High Court in State
Public Information Officer and Deputy Registrar (Establishment) v.
Karnataka Information Commission and Another WP No.26763 of
2013 dated 09.01.2019.
32. We fully endorse above views of the Delhi High Court. When
the High Court Rules provide for a mechanism that the
information/certified copies can be obtained by filing an
27
application/affidavit, the provisions of the RTI Act are not to be
resorted.
33. Sub-section (2) of Section 4 of the RTI Act provides that every
public authority to take steps to provide as much information suo
motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of
communications including internet, so that the public have minimum
resort to the use of the RTI Act to obtain information. Suo motu
disclosure of information on important aspects of working of a public
authority is therefore, an essential component of information regime.
The judgments and orders passed by the High Courts are all
available in the website of the respective High Courts and any
person can have access to these judgments and orders. Likewise,
the status of the pending cases and the orders passed by the High
Courts in exercise of its power under Section 235 of the Constitution
of India i.e. control over the subordinate courts like transfers,
postings and promotions are also made available in the website. In
order to maintain the confidentiality of the documents and other
information pertaining to the litigants to the proceedings and to
maintain proper balance, Rules of the High Court insist upon the
third party to file an application/affidavit to obtain
information/certified copies of the documents, lest such application
28
would reach unmanageable proportions apart from the misuse of
such information.
34. Section 22 of the RTI Act lays down that the provisions of the
RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent
therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other
law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by
virtue of any law other than RTI Act. Learned Senior counsel for the
appellant has submitted that since the requirement under Rule 151
of the Gujarat High Court Rules of filing an affidavit stating the
grounds for seeking the information is directly contrary to Section
6(2) of the RTI Act and there is direct inconsistency between the
provisions of the RTI Act and the Gujarat High Court Rules and in
the event of conflict between the provisions of the RTI Act and any
other law made by the Parliament or a State Legislature or any
other authority, the RTI Act must prevail.
35. In the non obstante clause of Section 22 of the RTI Act, three
categories have been mentioned:- (i) the Official Secrets Act, 1923;
and (ii) any other law for the time being in force; or (iii) any
instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. In
case of inconsistency of any law with the provisions of the Right to
Information Act, overriding effect has been given to the provisions of
29
the Right to Information Act. Section 31 of the RTI Act which is a
repealing clause repeals only the Freedom of Information Act, 2002
and not other laws. The Right to Information Act has not repealed
the Official Secrets Act or any of the laws providing confidentiality
which prohibits the authorities to disclose information. Therefore, all
those enactments including Official Secrets Act, 1923 continue to be
in force. This Act however, has an overriding effect to the extent
they are inconsistent.
36. The non-obstante clause of the RTI Act does not mean an
implied repeal of the High Court Rules and Orders framed under
Article 225 of the Constitution of India; but only has an overriding
effect in case of inconsistency. A special enactment or rule cannot
be held to be overridden by a later general enactment simply
because the latter opens up with a non-obstante clause, unless
there is clear inconsistency between the two legislations. In this
regard, we may usefully refer to the judgment of the Supreme Court
in R.S. Raghunath v. State of Karnataka (1992) 1 SCC 335 wherein,
the Supreme Court held as under:-
“38. In Ajoy Kumar Banerjee v. Union of India (1984) 3 SCC 127,
Sabyasachi Mukharji, J. (as His Lordship then was) observed thus :
“As mentioned hereinbefore if the scheme was held to be
valid, then the question what is the general law and what is the
special law and which law in case of conflict would prevail
would have arisen and that would have necessitated the
application of the principle “generalia specialibus non
30
derogant”. The general rule to be followed in case of conflict
between the two statutes is that the later abrogates the earlier
one. In other words, a prior special law would yield to a later
general law, if either of the two following conditions is satisfied:
(i) The two are inconsistent with each other.
(ii) There is some express reference in the later to the
earlier enactment.
If either of these two conditions is fulfilled, the later law,
even though general, would prevail.”
37. As pointed out earlier, Section 31 of the RTI Act repeals only
the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and not other laws. If the
intention of the legislature was to repeal any other Acts or laws
which deal with the dissemination of information to an applicant,
then the RTI Act would have clearly specified so. In the absence of
any provision to this effect, the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be
interpreted so as to attribute a meaning to them which was not
intended by the legislature. In the RTI Act, there is no specific
reference to the rules framed by the various High Courts or any
other special law excepting the Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
38. As discussed earlier, Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court
Rules requires a third party to the proceedings to file an affidavit and
state the reasons for seeking access to the information or grant of
certified copies of records and there is no inconsistency of the High
Court Rules with the provisions of the RTI Act. The Gujarat High
Court Rules neither prohibit nor forbid dissemination of information
31
or grant of certified copies of records. The difference is only insofar
as the stipulation of filing an application/affidavit or payment of fees,
etc. is concerned, there is no inconsistency between the two
provisions and therefore, the RTI Act has no overriding effect over
Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules.
39. Ten categories of information are exempted from disclosure
under Section 8(1)(a) to (j) of the RTI Act. Section 8(1)(j) excludes
disclosure of personal information, the disclosure of which:- (i) has
no relationship to any public activity or interest; or (ii) would cause
unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. However, in
both the cases, the Central Public Information Officer or the
appellate authority may order disclosure of such information, if they
are satisfied that larger public interest justifies disclosure. This
would imply that personal information which has some relationship
to any public activity or interest may be liable to be disclosed. An
invasion of privacy may be held to be justified if the larger public
interest so warrants.
40. The information held by the High Court on the judicial side are
the personal information of the parties to the litigation or information
furnished by the Government in relation to a particular case. There
may be information held by the High Court relating to the cases

which have been obtained from the various tribunals in exercise of
the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227 of the
Constitution of India. For instance, the matters arising out of the
orders by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs Excise and
Service Tax Appellate Tribunal and other tribunals over which the
High Court exercises the supervisory jurisdiction. The
orders/judgments passed by the High Court though are the
documents which are concerned to the rights and liabilities of the
parties to the litigation. Under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, the
Central Public Information Officer or the appellate authority may
order disclosure of personal information if they are satisfied that the
larger public interest justifies disclosure. Insofar as the High Court
Rules are concerned, if the information or certified copies of the
documents/record of proceedings/orders on the judicial side of the
Court is required, all that the third party is required to do is to file an
application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking such
information. On being satisfied about the reasons for requirement of
the certified copy/disclosure of information, the Court or the
concerned Officer would order for grant of certified copies. As
discussed earlier, Order XIII Rule 3 of the Supreme Court Rules
also stipulate the same procedure insofar as the third party seeking
certified copy of the documents/records.

41. Yet another contention advanced is that the information held
by the High Court may be furnished to the applicant by following the
procedure under Section 11 of the RTI Act. Section 11 of the Act
deals with third party information. As per Section 11 of the Act, if
the requisite information or record or part thereof has been supplied
by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third
party, then the Central Public Information Officer or State Public
Information Officer, as the case may be, within five days of 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 such
information should be disclosed and such submission of the third
party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about the
disclosure of the information.
42. We do not find any merit in the above submission and that
such cumbersome procedure has to be adopted for furnishing the
information/certified copies of the documents. When there is an
effective machinery for having access to the information or obtaining
certified copies which, in our view, is a very simple procedure i.e.

filing of an application/affidavit with requisite court fee and stating
the reasons for which the certified copies are required, we do not
find any justification for invoking Section 11 of the RTI Act and adopt
a cumbersome procedure. This would involve wastage of both time
and fiscal resources which the preamble of the RTI Act itself intends
to avoid.
43. We summarise our conclusion:-
(i) Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules stipulating
a third party to have access to the
information/obtaining the certified copies of the
documents or orders requires to file an
application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking
the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions
of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different
procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for
obtaining information. In the absence of inherent
inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act
and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not
apply.
(ii) The information to be accessed/certified copies on
the judicial side to be obtained through the
mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the
provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.
44. In the light of aforesaid reasonings, the impugned order dated
13.03.2014 passed by the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad in
35
Letters Patent Appeal No.1348 of 2013 is confirmed and these
appeals are dismissed. We place on record the valuable assistance
rendered by Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni as amicus.
..…………………….J.
[R. BANUMATHI]
..…………………….J.
[A.S. BOPANNA]
..……………………….J.
[HRISHIKESH ROY]
New Delhi;
March 04, 2020.

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