November 6, 2008 12:08:12 am
The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that declaration of assets by judges before the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “voluntary” act and was not for the public eye.
Appearing for the Supreme Court, Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan maintained that judges could, of their own accord, declare their assets as per a Full Court Resolution by the Supreme Court in 1997.
As per the Resolution, “Every judge is to make a declaration of all assets in the form of real estate or investments held in their name or their spouse and any other person dependent on them to the Chief Justice”.
Sharan maintained that revealing any details would amount to a “breach of confidentiality” as declarations were made to the Chief Justice in his personal capacity and not on official terms.
However, Information Commissioner M M Ansari appeared dissatisfied with Sharan’s explanation of the procedure and proceeded to question if a “Full Court Resolution” was not an official document at all.
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah followed up, questioning if the declarations, if any made, were held by the CJI’s office. Habibullah also wanted to know if the declarations submitted before the CJI were indeed passed on to successors.
The CIC has reserved the case for final orders.
Appearing for applicant S C Aggarwal, counsel Prashant Bhushan contended that the resolution was without doubt an official document, open to the purview of the public under the RTI Act, 2005.
Earlier, the CIC had noted the absence of a clear procedure in the Supreme Court for declaration of assets by judges.
CJI K G Balakrishnan had clarified that judges could submit their wealth details to him. He had also directed the high courts to follow an identical procedure. But the CJI had not clarified if the details were open to the public.
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