Right to Information (RTI) activists on Wednesday hailed the Delhi High Court's ruling that judges should declare their assets and that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the purview of the RTI Act.
"I am very very excited. I want to compliment Delhi High Court Justice S Ravindra Bhat. He is the best judge in India," said an emotional Subhash Chandra Agrawal, an RTI activist.
It was on Agrawal's petition that the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled that the office of CJI is a public authority. The Supreme Court had through its registry filed an appeal against that order in the high court.
The high court on Wednesday upheld the CIC decision that judges should declare their assets and the office of the Chief Justice of India would be the public authority to assess those assets.
In a historical judgement, Justice Bhat said judges are accountable but they are also subject to some constraints.
"The dignity of the judges adds value to democracy. The judges are under public attack and revealing assets and other information may increase the reputation of the judges," Bhat said.
Agrawal said: "May god make him the chief Justice of India. His judgement will take forward the torch of transparency and accountability in the country."
In his petition, he had asked whether all the judges are declaring details of their assets, including those of their dependents, to the chief justice.
"The chief public information officer of the Supreme Court shall release the information about the declaration of the assets to the petitioner within four weeks of time," Bhat ruled.
Chief of CIC Wajahat Habibullah said: "It's very kind of the Delhi High Court."
Arvind Kejriwal, a Magsaysay award winner RTI activist, told IANS: "Now at least, the CJI should submit himself to the RTI Act and stop this unholy controversy."
Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra said: "It's a landmark judgement by the Delhi High Court... To us activists, it was clear from the beginning by looking at the constitution of India. There was never a doubt in my mind that the office of the CJI was within the purview of the RTI Act."
"However, it will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court would now go against the verdict of the Delhi High Court," Batra told IANS.
RTI activist Manish Sisodia said: "This is the classic example of what an ordinary but motivated and committed citizen can do. In this case, one ordinary citizen has forced the mighty Supreme court of India to change its stance."
"Now its the turn of the government to change the law and make it mandatory, in larger public interest, for judges to declare their assets from time to time ," he said.