The Supreme Court on Wednesday said details of judges’ wealth were “personal information” which can’t be made public, and told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that there is no law which makes the declaration of judges assets mandatory.
“Details of judges assets are held by the Chief Justice of India and High Court chief justices in their personal capacities, and this is an extremely personal information,” Additional Solicitor General Amrender Sharan told the information watchdog.
Sharan, who represented the Supreme Court before a three-member full bench of the CIC, said: “There is no law which requires the chief justices to hold information about the details of judges’ wealth, and the CJI is not an administrative authority for the judges.” Sharan’s comments came as the CIC bench heard an appeal filed by a Delhi resident, Subhash Chandra Aggarwal.
Aggarwal had approached the CIC after the Supreme Court refused him details of the declaration of judges’ assets on his application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The CIC bench, of Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibulah and information commissioners A.N. Tiwari and M.M. Ansari, reserved its order after hearing both sides.
Earlier, Sharan opposed the appeal and said the information has been sought on the basis of a 1997 Supreme Court resolution, which was “voluntary and if any details were made public based on this, it would amount to breach of confidentiality”.
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who represented Aggarwal, countered the argument: “A resolution adopted in a full court meeting attended by 22 Supreme Court judges, including the then CJI J.S. Verma, cannot be described as informal and voluntary. It is a part of the court records and is official.”
He asked the CIC to clarify on who would provide information sought under the RTI Act from the Supreme Court. The judiciary has been consistently opposed to making public the details of judges’ wealth. CJI K.G. Balakrishnan had said his office being a “constitutional post” was not covered under the RTI Act.