The details of judges’ wealth once submitted cannot be termed “personal information”, since this has to be used for official purposes, former Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Verma has said.
Verma, who introduced the concept, said the view taken by the Supreme Court counsel at the hearing before the Central Information Commission on Wednesday “missed the essence” of the 1997 resolution on declaring assets. His comment came in response to the stand of Additional Solicitor-General Amrender Sharan that “details of judges assets were held by the CJI and chief justices of high courts in their personal capacities and cannot be made public”. Sharan described the 1997 Supreme Court resolution, which made it mandatory for judges to declare their assets, “as voluntary and informal”.
“The resolution, once adopted in the full court meeting, no longer remained voluntary or informal. It became obligatory on the very date it was approved in the meeting attended by 22 judges,” Verma said.
Sharan had said the information collected was for respective chief justices to use and making it public would amount to “breach of confidentiality”. But Verma said: “The information... was to be used to find out property details in case there were any allegations against them. Since it was to be used for official purposes, how could it be informal?”
After the resolution was passed in May 1997, judges’ appointments to the apex and high courts were approved only after they submitted details of their wealth.