2 Nov 2009
What had created a furore in the higher judiciary has now come a full circle with the Supreme Court judges declaring their assets as promised. Though the Chief Justice of India has always maintained that his office is not within the purview of the Right to Information Act (and therefore will not abide by the directive of the Central Information Commission [CIC] to provide information), the Court has "on a voluntary basis" declared the assets of its judges on its website today.
Though we had covered the entire chronology leading to the events, just a quick recap would lead us to the decision of the CIC which had directed the Registrar of Supreme Court to inform the applicant whether the Supreme Court and High Court judges had been filing declaration in terms of the Full Bench resolution of 1997 whereunder the judges had undertaken to file a list of assets to the respective Chief Justice. The petition challenging the decision of CIC (filed at the behest of the Supreme Court and argued by the Attorney General of India himself) was turned down by a Single judge of the Delhi High Court in an elaborate decision. The further challenge to this ruling had been referred by the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to a larger bench of the High Court being of the view that important questions of law were involved and therefore a determinative finding is required.
In the meanwhile, considering the public opinion and the pending bill to similar effect in the Parliament, the judges of various High Court and finally the Supreme Court undertook to voluntarily disclose their assets. And now, a special link has been created on the website of the Supreme Court where the assets of most of the Supreme Court judges have been enlisted. The declaratory statement, however, is quick to point out that "the declaration of assets is purely on voluntary basis" which clearly shows the intent of the court to continue to press upon the legal challenge as to its amenability under the Right to Information Act.
Let us hope that, say on a similar voluntary basis, other public servants would be pleased to follow the lead and come out and support the transparency initiative.