Judge's Notes to Stenographers Can't be Made Public Under RTI: Supreme Court
Petitioner Tapan Choudhary, a lawyer himself, had sought shorthand notes of a stenographer in the Delhi High Court.
A file image of the Supreme Court of India.
New Delhi: Judges' dictations to their stenographers cannot be given under the Right To Information Act, the Supreme Court has held.
During the hearing of a case, a judge dictates order and other notes to a stenographer, who usually records it in shorthand.
"How are you entitled to it? It is just the notes given by a judge to his stenographer. It is not the order...not even signed by a judge," a bench led by Justice J Chelameswar questioned the RTI applicant in the matter.
"Are these shorthand note books even maintained?," Justice Chelameswar further asked petitioner Tapan Choudhary.
Choudhary, a lawyer himself, had sought shorthand notes of a stenographer in the Delhi High Court. "I was curious to know how did the High Court pass an order of injunction in this case when all the lawyers in the court were on strike and nobody appeared before the court," he told the bench.
The Court retorted that correctness of the HC order was a different issue but Choudhary will have to first establish that shorthand notes are records under the RTI Act, which are to be maintained and disclosed in the interest of transparency.
"How are these notes covered under the Act? And which provision entitles you to obtain it?" the bench asked Choudhary, who cited the HC judgment to state that since shorthand notes have been recognised as "memo" and the court is a public authority, RTI Act entitled him to get copies.
But the bench remained unimpressed. "These notes are not orders. They are not records that are to be maintained by a public authority. You may be entitled to orders of a court but how can you ask for these notes? An order is what a judge signs...not what he dictates to his stenographer. Shorthand notes are not information under the RTI Act," said the Court.
"We do not see any ground to interfere with the impugned order. The special leave petition is accordingly dismissed," stated the bench in its final order.
The lawyer had filed an appeal against an order of the Delhi HC order, which had said that 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.
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