The Supreme Court lost its case the moment the special bench of the Delhi High Court came to a conclusion that the 1997 resolution passed by SC judges was a self-regulatory mechanism to which they have to strictly adhere.
The resolution by the apex court which said that every judge should declare their assets and a code of conduct adopted unanimously in the conference of chief justices of all high courts in 1999 was the genesis of the whole dispute.
RTI petitioner SC Aggarwal’s grouse was that the judges were not declaring their assets as per the 1997 resolution.
The Supreme Court had contended that the resolution for declaration of assets was a “moral act” with “no force of law” and was unenforceable.
“The single judge rightly concluded that the resolutions are meant to be adhered to and that the fact that there is no objective mechanism to ensure its implementation is of little consequence ...,” said the bench of Chief Justice AP Shah and justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar.
The bench cited a 1991 judgment of the SC to make the point emphasising the duty of a judge to maintain high standards.
“A single dishonest judge not only dishonours himself and disgraces his office ... A judicial scandal has always been regarded as far more deplorable than a scandal involving either the executive or a member of the legislature. The slightest hint of irregularity ... in the court is a cause for great anxiety and alarm... a judge must keep himself absolutely above suspicion; to preserve the impartiality and independence of the judiciary....”