The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) asking the Supreme Court to disclose information on whether its judges had declared their assets.
Justice Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi High Court stayed the January 6 decision of the CIC full bench,giving the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court a 10-day deadline to bring to the public domain through the Right to Information Act details of whether declaration of assets,etc,has been filed by the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court.
The case has been posted for hearing on February 11 with Justice Bhat requesting eminent jurist and senior advocate Fali S Nariman to assist the court as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the matter.
Justice Bhat also sought responses from the CIC and Right to Information (RTI) applicant,Subhash Agarwal,who wanted to know if Supreme Court judges were abiding by a full court resolution passed on May 7,1997 prescribing a rule of conduct for every judge to make a declaration of assets in form of real estate or investments held in their names or in the name of their spouses and any person dependent on them to the Chief Justice.
The transparency panels decision had led to the rare consequence of the Supreme Court,the countrys highest court,appealing to the Delhi High Court,a court lower in the judicial hierarchy.
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and his colleagues had dismissed the Supreme Courts version that judges filed their assets with the Chief Justice of India in a voluntary and confidential manner,who held the information in his personal capacity owing to the fiduciary relationship among the members of the Supreme Court Bench.
In reply,Habibullahs bench went on to remind the Supreme Court of the additional responsibilities of the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justices of High Courts to embrace,and moreover,enforce transparency in their offices owing to the unique status and position the RTI Act endows their respective high judicial offices with.
The RTI hearing saw the Commission confirm that the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court of India are one and the same even as the Supreme Court Registry argued that one was separate from the other.
However,appearing before the High Court on behalf of the Supreme Court,Solicitor General G E Vahanvati in his petition stated that declaration of assets by the apex court judges to the CJI was hardly a mandatory exercise under the law.
The apex court further argued that the CIC decision was excessive and without jurisdiction.