A day before the crucial hearing of the case related to disclosure of assets by Supreme Court judges on Friday, the judges have made it clear that they will not make their wealth details public in the existing circumstances.
In a written submission, the Supreme Court registry has said that first the word ‘assets’ must be clearly defined and then there should be “proper safeguards, checks and balances to prevent misuse of the information”.
The affidavit, which Hindustan Times has access to, states, “The learned judges are not opposed to declaring their assets, provided that such declarations are made in accordance with due procedure laid down by law which would prescribe (the) authority to which the declaration would have to be made.”
The Supreme Court stand has dashed all hopes of introducing greater transparency in the country’s judiciary, which is facing its worst-ever credibility crisis due to a recent spurt in corruption charges against judges.
The UPA government failed to introduce a Bill to check corruption in the judiciary and make the judges accountable during the last two sessions of Parliament, despite the Judges Inquiry Bill having been cleared twice by the Union Cabinet.
Meanwhile, a group of Right To Information (RTI) activists held a silent demonstration outside the Supreme court on Thursday, protesting against the judges’ refusal to divulge their asset details.
The Supreme Court, opposed to the judiciary being covered under the RTI Act, made an unsuccessful attempt to keep itself out of the law in 2006. In a letter to the Central Information Commission (CIC), the apex court asked for exemption from the Act, which was denied.
In the present case, a Delhi resident, Subhash Chandra Aggarwal, asked under the RTI Act whether the Supreme Court judges declare their assets to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The court refused to provide the information, following which Aggarwal appealed before the CIC.
In its landmark order on January 6 this year, the information watchdog directed the Supreme Court to provide the information. But the court refused to accept the CIC order and filed an appeal against it in the Delhi High Court, which had stayed the commission’s order last month.