The Supreme Court has disowned its decade-old resolution to oppose public scrutiny of the wealth of judges.
This U-turn was made during arguments before the Central Information Commission (CIC), whose latest ruling had directed the court to provide these details within 10 days.
The apex court lawyer told the CIC that its resolution was “informal”. “If any information was provided under the Right to Information on the basis of this resolution, it would lead to breach of confidentiality,” he said.
The resolution, which made it mandatory for the judges to regularly declare their assets and also those of their families, was passed in a full court meeting in 1997 attended by 22 judges.
The disclosure came on a day when the Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan hinted that the CIC ruling might be challenged in court. “We do not agree with what the CIC has said,” Balakrishnan said in a newspaper interview. “We might appeal against it in court.”
The Supreme Court Registry has already indicated it might consider moving the Delhi HC against the ruling made public last week.
Former CJI J.S. Verma, who had moved the resolution and got it passed during his tenure, strongly objected to the apex court’s stand. “How can a resolution adopted in a full court be termed as voluntary and informal? It became obligatory on the judiciary since the day it was passed in the full court meeting in May 1997,” he said.
He said the information provided by judges “is meant to be used in case there are some allegations of corruption on any individual. Therefore it is very much official information and any erroneous interpretation must be checked at once”. He said the judiciary should open itself to public scrutiny and not oppose this move.
India is the only major democracy in the world where the Supreme Court and high court judges are not willing to make public the details of their wealth and academic qualifications.