In a path-breaking verdict, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India came within the ambit of the RTI Act and rejected a Supreme Court appeal saying judicial independence is not a judge's personal privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.
The 88-page verdict is being seen as a personal setback to CJI KG Balakrishnan, who has consistently been maintaining that his office does not come under the transparency law and hence cannot part with information like disclosure of judges' assets under it.
Holding that CJI is a public authority under the Act, a full bench headed by Chief Justice AP Shah said judges of the superior courts should make public their assets as they are not "less accountable" than the judicial officers of the lower courts who are bound by service rules to declare assets.
The Bench dismissed the plea of the Supreme Court which had vehemently opposed bringing CJI's office within the purview of the Act on the ground that it would encroach into its judicial independence.
"Judicial independence is not the personal privilege or prerogative of the individual Judge. It is the responsibility imposed on each Judge to enable him or her to adjudicate a dispute honestly and impartially on the basis of the law and the evidence," it said.
Today's verdict came on an appeal filed by the apex court which challenged the order of a single judge of the High Court on September 2 holding that the CJI is a public authority and his office came within the purview of the RTI Act.