Already facing criticism for refusing to make public their wealth details, the Supreme Court judges on Monday faced fresh demands on the issue from top jurists, including former Law Ministers Ram Jethmalani and Shanti Bhushan, to set an example for the country by “voluntarily declaring their assets”.
In a letter to all the judges of the Supreme Court, the group known as Campaign For Judicial Accountability and Reforms, said though Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was against the move, judges were free to voluntarily do so. “Though one can take the view that the Chief Justice cannot disclose information regarding the assets of judges given to him in confidence, that is clearly no impediment whatsoever before any judge voluntarily disclosing his assets publicly,” the letter signed by Jethmalani and Bhushan said.
The jurists’ group reminded the judges that it was a Supreme Court judgment in 2003, that made it mandatory for candidates contesting the elections for the Parliament and state assemblies to declare their assets. “The rationale given by the Supreme Court for the need for disclosure of assets of candidates contesting elections would equally apply to all public servants occupying crucial positions of authority,” the campaigners’ group supported by former Supreme Court judges, VR Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant, said.
The jurists’ group appealed to the judges to use the opportunity to set an example for the country. “At a time when people have become cynical about the integrity of public servants, voluntary disclosure of assets by judges would be setting an example of transparency in the country which would then be emulated by others.”
The CJAR said the judiciary had a chance to make the Right to Information Act popular in the country. “Such a step would greatly advance the cause of transparency and probity in public life. It would also advance the objectives of the RTI Act and would be applauded as an act of statesmanship by the country.”
The CJAR letter to the Supreme Court judges mounts a fresh attack on the judiciary, which has so far been successful in resisting the pressure for public scrutiny of its administrative functioning.