A day after the Delhi High Court’s historic ruling that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the purview of the Right to Information law, top jurists on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to accept the verdict and not to challenge it.
Hearing the case, first to be heard by a high court involving the Supreme Court, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said “the CJI is a public authority under the RTI Act and is covered under the provisions of the Act”.
Jurists led by three former Chief Justices of India welcomed the judgment and congratulated Justice Bhat “for removing the confusion on the implementation of RTI Act in judiciary.”
Former CJI J.S. Verma, who had moved the 1997 resolution that made it mandatory for judges to disclose assets to their respective chief justices, said the judgment had made the judiciary proud.
“Having been associated with the legal profession for more than five decades, I’m today in a position to say that the judgment has made me feel proud.”
On the likelihood of the apex court challenging the decision, Verma said: “In my opinion, the verdict should be accepted. It would enhance the higher judiciary’s prestige among public. I would be extremely disappointed, if it is challenged.”
The court verdict reflected the high standards and impartiality of the country’s judiciary, said P.N. Bhagwati.
“The decision is exemplary and salutary. It has put an end to all confusion over the implementation of RTI in higher judiciary. I feel it should be accepted without delay. No questions should be raised on it,” Justice Bhagwati said.
Another former Chief Justice of India, Justice VN Khare, said the Delhi High Court had done what was expected of it.
“It has upheld the dignity of the judiciary. If we were to hide anything, it would only give rise to suspicion that we have something to hide. Judges’ assets should be in public domain, what is there to debate in it !” he said.
He said was keenly waiting to see what the top court would decide on the issue. “I reserve my further comments till then.”
Former apex court judge P.B. Sawant said the court should have accepted the Central Information Commission (CIC) order without filing an appeal against it in the high court.
“I found it a case of needless litigation. The CIC order was fine, the Supreme Court could have provided information without taking so much time,” he said.
Justice Bhat upheld the view that the chief justice was required to disclose information relating to the assets of SC judges that had been provided to him, rejecting the apex court’s argument that the details were ‘confidential’.