Ahead of a likely meeting of the Supreme Court judges this week to decide on the controversial issue of assets declaration, the top lawyers’ body in the country on Tuesday asked the judiciary to make their wealth details public without any further delay.
The Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulator for legal profession in India, said the judges “should not hesitate even for a moment to adopt the basic principle of transparency in public life.”
The BCI’s comments would mount pressure on Supreme Court judges, some of whom are understood to be “seriously considering” to make their assets public to put an end to the embarrassing controversy, which has put the judiciary’s credibility under the scanner.
“Judges file income tax returns every year and are supposed to be declaring their assets to the Chief Justice of India. I don’t understand the opposition,” said BCI chairman S.N.P. Sinha.
Going a step further, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice appealed to the Supreme Court to withdraw its appeal challenging the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) order in the Delhi High Court.
The CIC, had earlier this month directed the Supreme Court Registry to furnish information to a Right to Information (RTI) applicant on whether the judges declared their assets to the Chief Justice of India.
“The affidavit filed by the Supreme Court Registry in Delhi High Court is against the spirit of the RTI Act,” committee chairman Dr E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said.
“It states that the CIC has allowed the applicant to know whether judges file their assets, if this information is given, the next query would be what has been declared,” Natchiappan remarked about the court affidavit.
“The RTI Act is like a second independence movement, let us all try to protect it rather than weaken it,” he said.
The demands for greater accountability in the judiciary’s internal functioning are getting louder. The refusal by noted jurist Fali S. Nariman to be a friend of the court in this matter seems to have started a chain reaction among the intellectuals to speak out on transparency.