Sunshine in the Courts: Ranking the High Courts on their Compliance with the RTI Act

Reports by Judicial Reform · November 8, 2019
Author(s): Vaidehi Misra, Chitrakshi Jain, Tarika Jain and Shreya Tripathy

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is the first of its kind sunshine law in India which aims at ushering in a transparency revolution. Not only does it provide a convenient mechanism for obtaining information from public authorities, the Act also creates a positive obligation upon authorities such as the High Courts and District Courts to proactively publish information about their functioning. The successful implementation of the Act has been made possible only by the aid of the judiciary which has led to the strengthening of the accountability of public institutions in India. Unfortunately, however, the judiciary has itself not been abiding by the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. Section 28 of the Act provides competent authorities, such as the High Courts, to devise their own set of Right to Information Rules, which the High Courts have used to circumvent the Act. The High Courts have also underperformed while complying with the disclosure requirements under Section 4 of the Act.

After undertaking an extensive analysis on various parameters, the report ranks all the High Courts on their compliance with the RTI Act by devising four indices – Legality Index (which assesses the legality of the High Court RTI Rules vis-á-vis the RTI Act), Convenience Index (which assesses the extent to which the RTI Rules framed by the High Courts make it inconvenient for citizens to file RTI applications), Practice Index (which assesses the practices used by the Public Information Officers of the High Courts to respond to RTI applications) and the Disclosures Index (which assesses the quality of disclosures made by the High Courts under the RTI Act). Additionally, we also evaluate the quality of the disclosures made by the District Courts under the RTI Act.

The report is in two volumes. Volume I is the main report which assesses the compliance of the High Courts with the RTI Act and explains the indices along with the findings. Volume II creates individual scorecards for individual high Courts and makes detailed recommendations to ensure their compliance with the Act.

Download the full report – Sunshine in the Courts: Ranking the High Courts on their Compliance with the RTI Act

About Vaidehi Misra:

Vaidehi is a Research Fellow with the Judicial Reforms vertical. She has an affinity for large data sets and impact evaluation studies and is currently working on issues surrounding judicial capacity and transparency. She has a B.A.LLB. (Hons.) degree from Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat and an LLM from the University of California, Berkeley with a focus on jurisprudence and social policy. She has been published in newspapers and digital platforms such as the Hindu, Business Standard, Bloomberg Quint, the Wire and the Firstpost. She has been a substantive editor for the Berkeley Journal for Gender Law and Justice and a contributing author for a book on Sustainable Development Goals. She has previously worked in the chambers of Mr. Gaurab Banerji, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, assisting in landmark cases in the field of commercial law, arbitration, competition and constitutional law. Link to full bio

About Chitrakshi Jain:

Chitrakshi is a Research Fellow with the Judicial Reforms vertical. As member of the vertical she has worked on issues such as judicial funding, transparency in the judiciary and other aspects that affect the functioning of the institution. Her areas of interest include public institutions, urban governance and governance of Scheduled Areas. A 2014 graduate of NALSAR, Hyderabad she was working as a research associate for Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad prior to joining Vidhi. Interested in pursuing research that lies at the intersection of law and social sciences, she completed her Masters in Politics from the University of Delhi and is currently also pursuing research at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU on urbanisation and governance.

About Tarika Jain:

Tarika is a Research Fellow with the Judicial Reforms team. At Vidhi, she researches on gender representation, efficient budgeting and transparency in the judiciary with an empirical lens. Her areas of interest include law and economics, and governance. Tarika graduated from Gujarat National Law University with B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) in 2017. She has publications in peer reviewed law and social sciences journals and online platforms like Firstpost and Oxford Human Rights Blog. Prior to joining Vidhi, she was working for Gujarat State Petronet Limited, a state Public Sector Undertaking in the oil and gas sector where she was involved in various litigation and arbitration matters. She has previously interned with the Law Commission of India and Hon’ble Justice N.V. Ramana at the Supreme Court. Tarika is a pop culture enthusiast and enjoys watching anime and rockumentaries in her free time. Link to full bio

About Shreya Tripathy:

Shreya is a Research Fellow with the Judicial Reforms team. At Vidhi, she researches on areas like gender representation and efficient budgeting in the judiciary. Her areas of interest include Human Rights & Judicial Reforms. She has publications in law & policy review journals and online platforms such as First Post. She graduated with B.B.A.LL.B. from National Law University, Odisha in 2018. During her time there she worked as a member of various organizing committees including TEDxNLUO and also worked as the head of the cultural committee of the college. She has previously interned at organizations like Nyaaya, CHRI, SAHRDC and PLD. Link to full bio