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No friend of court in this case

In a new twist to the judges’ assets declaration case, eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman has declined the Delhi High Court request to assist it in deciding the Supreme Court appeal against the Central Information Commission, reports Harish V. Nair.

delhi Updated: Jan 20, 2009 22:44 IST
Harish V. Nair

In a new twist to the judges’ assets declaration case, eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman has declined the Delhi High Court request to assist it in deciding the Supreme Court appeal against the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Justice Ravindra Bhat, hearing the apex court’s appeal against a CIC order asking it to furnish information on whether judges were disclosing asset details to the Chief Justice of India, had on Monday appointed Nariman as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The SC has said there is nothing in the Constitution or in law that requires judges to declare their assets to the CJI. Prashant Bhushan, lawyer for the RTI petitioner in the case, submitted before Bhat that Nariman was not willing to be amicus curiae as he had “strong personal views on the matter”, and had said so in a newspaper article on Tuesday.

Reacting to an article by former Delhi HC chief justice Rajindar Sachar, ‘Transfer of Judges — self-inflicted wounds seldom heal’, in an English daily, Nariman, in his letter to the editor, wrote: “Judges of the highest court who have powers of life and death over us citizens… must, I repeat must, show they too are amenable to good practice… 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 court on whether it was lawful for income tax to be deducted from the salaries they get…”

After hearing Bhushan, Bhat sought a formal application to take a decision. He told HT it would be “filed in a day or two”.



Flak for judges

The Supreme Court and Delhi High Court’s move also drew sharp criticism from Transparency International and several jurists.

“The opposition by judges to reveal details of their wealth will only make people suspect they have something to hide,” said Admiral (retd) R.H. Tahiliani, chairman of Transparency International India. Prashant Bhushan said it demonstrated the judiciary’s non-transparent attitude.