Notes of judges’ stenos don’t come under RTI, says Delhi HC

New Delhi: Notes dictated by a judge to a stenographer during the hearing of a case would not be considered as a record held by a public authority and hence cannot be sought under the Right to Information Act, Delhi High Court has ruled.

“Shorthand notebook can at best be treated as a memo of what is dictated to a steno to be later transcribed into a draft judgment or an order.”

“When draft judgments and order do not form part of a ‘record’ held by a public authority, a shorthand notebook which is memo of what is dictated and which would later be typed to become a draft judgment or an order can certainly not be held to be ‘record’ held by a public authority,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said.

The court further clarified that shorthand notebooks were not retained and cannot be equated with a judgment or an order, which forms part of the judicial record.

The ruling came in a judgement dismissing the plea of a man seeking copies of the shorthand notebooks in which the stenographer takes dictation of the court.

The court upheld the March 7 order of Central Information Commission (CIC) by which petitioner Tapan Choudhury was denied copies of shorthand notes taken in the high court on May 27, 2013.

The petitioner was denied the information by the Public Information Officer of the high court, who said that shorthand notes were not retained.

The first appellate authority had also held that “no such record was maintained and thus the same cannot be furnished” to the petitioner.

Justice Sachdeva in his decision also relied on a full bench judgement of the high court, which had held that even draft judgments signed and exchanged are not to be considered as final judgment but only a tentative view liable to change.

It has been held that draft judgment cannot be said to be information held by a public authority. The full bench held, that the apprehension of the Attorney General, that notes or jottings by the judges or their draft judgments would fall within the purview of Right to Information Act, is misplaced.

“Notes taken by judges while hearing a case 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,” the court said in its three-page verdict.