Abraham Thomas | New Delhi
Some judges may declare their assets
Facing the heat from all quarters over judges' refusal to disclose their assets, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is now confronting dissent from within the judicial ranks. The CJI is understood to have learnt that a section of High Court judges want to go public with their assets.
The significant development has followed within days after noted jurist and constitutional expert Fali S Nariman declined the offer to assist the Delhi High Court as amicus curiae in the appeal filed by the Supreme Court Registry. Nariman had stated that he could not accept the "honour" accorded to him by the High Court since he had "decided views" on the matter. He conveyed his thoughts on the subject in an article carried by an English daily on Tuesday stating, "For judges of the highest court to litigate as to whether or not they should disclose their assets is as bad as judges going to the court on whether it was lawful for income tax to be deducted from the salaries they get."
According to confirmed reports, the office of the CJI came to know about a split among the High Court judges on the contentious issue of declaring their assets.
It is learnt that some of the High Court judges have met and discussed the issue and questioned the reluctance of their colleagues to declare their assets in conformity with a 1997 Supreme Court's resolution.
Coming at a time when the Supreme Court Registry's appeal is pending before the Delhi High Court, voice of dissent has thrown the CJI into a piquant situation.
Interestingly, CJI Balakrishnan on May 5 last year wrote a personal mail to individual Chief Justices of the 21 High Courts seeking full implementation of the 'Restatement of Values of Judicial Life' along with a Resolution of the Supreme Court dated May 7, 1997 which stated, "Every judge should make a declaration of his/her assets in the form of real estate or investments (held by him/her in his/her own name or in the name of his/her spouse or any person dependant on him/her) within a reasonable time of assuming office and in the case of sitting judges within a reasonable time of adopting of this Resolution."
Making a reference of the above rule, the short communication by CJI said, "The High Court may consider adopting similar Resolution in case it does not have a system of judges declaring their assets soon after the assumption of office and regularly updating the declaration made by them." Including even the newly appointed judges in this fold, the CJI said, "As and when a new judge assumes charge of his office, copies of these resolutions be sent to him."
The debate on whether the judges should declare their assets was triggered by the Central Information Commission (CIC) Full Bench order on January 6 directing the SC Registry to provide information about the disclosure of assets by judges of the High Courts to their respective Chief Justices and by apex court judges to the CJI. The order was passed on an appeal filed by one SC Agrawal who was initially denied the information by SC Registry.
Challenging the CIC order in Delhi High Court, the SC Registry sought to differentiate between Supreme Court as an institution and the office of the Chief Justice of India. It argued that RTI applied to public authorities making them bound to supply information in the public domain. But in the present case, it suggested that neither the office of the CJI was a "public authority" and nor was the information relating to judges' assets in the "public domain".
CJI in a fix
Dissent rising among judicial ranks; a section of HC judges reportedly wants to go public with asset details
There is said to be a split among the High Court judges on the contentious issue of declaring their assets
The CJI had on May 5 last year written a personal mail to Chief Justices of the 21 High Courts, seeking full implementation of the 'Restatement of Values of Judicial Life' along with a Resolution of the Supreme Court, dated May 7, 1997, which stated: "Every judge should make a declaration of his/her assets"
The debate (on whether the judges should declare assets) was triggered by a CIC full Bench order on January 6, which directed the SC Registry to provide information about the disclosure of assets by the High Court judges to their respective Chief Justices and by the apex court judges to the CJI