In a bid to regulate the official foreign trips of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, the government has denied permission in two cases this year “to concerned judges not to undertake the foreign trips.”
The government has also decided to frame clear guidelines on whose hospitality they can accept during their official trips abroad, according to the information provided by the department of justice, law ministry, in response to an RTI application filed by HT.
“During the current year, 2010 so far, 28 judges of high courts and the Supreme Court sought permission to undertake official foreign visits. In two cases, the government asked the concerned judges not to undertake the foreign visits,” the department said in its reply.
It has, however, declined to give the exact number and names of judges denied consent.
According to information provided earlier, the cost of air tickets alone of judges’ foreign travel on official trips was around Rtwo crore in the years 2007 and 2008.
The issue of judges’ official foreign visits and daily allowance during such trips has been a sore point between the judiciary and the government.
It had reached a flashpoint in September 2009 when the department of justice had asked a team of 12 judges led by then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan to return the allowance given by their Australian hosts.
The government had first turned down the Australian Federal Court’s offer to provide the return air tickets to the team, the cost of which was around R25 lakh. Later, when the team had landed in Australia, they were asked to return 625 Australian dollars each (around R26,000 each), given to them by the hosts.
The ministry, in its RTI reply, said: “In case of official foreign visits of judges, the cost of travel to the foreign country and back is to be borne by the concerned state government/high court/Supreme Court.”
In response to a query whether judges can accept the hospitality of local hosts, the ministry said: “The invited judge may only accept local transportation and hospitality offered by a foreign government merely on days of clearly specified official engagements.”
The government is in the process of finalising the guidelines to end the ambiguity on foreign visits, the reply said.