The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to the constitution bench a plea raising questions whether the apex court was exempted from disclosing information on appointment of judges and other matters under the Right to Information Act.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi referred the issue to the larger bench on the ground that a substantial question of law was involved in the matter.
"A substantial question of law is involved... which needs to be interpretated," the bench also comprising justices Prafulla C Pant and A M Khanwilkar said.
"The entire issue is rooted in the order of Delhi high court and that of the Central Information Commission holding that the Supreme Court was covered under the RTI and was obliged to disclose information about the judges' appointments and other judicial information," Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, said.
He said that impression is gaining ground that judiciary is shying away from bringing transparency in its system due to delay in deciding cases.
Citing the delay in hearing of the matter, Bhushan said when it comes to others, the Supreme Court directs even the poll candidates to disclose their assets but when it comes to judges, it shies away.
To this, the bench asked "why should anybody be shy of answering a question".
The court then framed questions to be examined by the constitution bench, including "whether the concept of independence of judiciary requires and demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought" under the RTI Act and "whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary."
The apex court had earlier in November 2010, said that independence of judiciary formed part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
The independence of judiciary and the fundamental right to free speech and expression are of a great value and both for them are required to be balanced, the court had said.
Earlier, in 2009, the Central Information Commission had upheld Agrawal's plea seeking from the apex court complete information, including file notings, relating to appointment of Justices H L Dattu, A K Ganguly and R M Lodha, all of whom have since retired.