Bowing to public sentiment, the government for the first time on Friday said it will make a new law for mandatory declaration of assets by Supreme Court and high court judges.
Law minister M Veerappa Moily, (69), said the UPA government will bring a bill in the budget session of Parliament next month, making it compulsory for higher judiciary to declare assets and liabilities.
The minister said the judiciary appeared prepared to declare assets provided there were “adequate safeguards.” He gave no further details about the proposed bill.
The minister’s announcement marks a departure from the earlier cautious approach of the UPA government on the issue so far. Moily said the public perception that judges were opposed to declare their assets was not correct.
“We will take the judiciary into confidence. I have already spoken and we are not for confrontation,” Moily said.
The judiciary has consistently opposed the introduction of fresh measures to make it more accountable and its functioning transparent.
The Supreme Court had refused to accept a Central Information Commission ruling in January this year, which had asked it to furnish details under the Right to Information (RTI), whether judges declare assets to the Chief Justice of India.
The Supreme Court challenged the ruling in the Delhi High Court and a verdict is expected soon.
Moily said his ministry was working on a separate bill to set up a mechanism for probing cases of corruption against judges, since presently there was no provision “short of impeachment”.
“The Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, does not have much teeth,” the minister said.
Moily also announced that Justice B Sudershan Reddy of the supreme court will now head the committee for initiating impeachment (removal) proceedings against Calcutta High Court Judge, Soumitra Sen, accused of corruption and misconduct.
Justice Reddy replaces his colleague, Justice D K Jain, who withdrew from the three-member Committee early this month citing “personal reasons”.
The committee has been set-up by the Rajya Sabha chairman, Hamid Ansari, after he received a petition signed by 58 MPs, seeking Sen’s removal.