The opaque glass that screened all information about the assets of our judiciary has now been replaced with a clear one. But, you can only look through it from a distance. After years of wrangling, the Supreme Court has finally agreed to make public the assets and liabilities of its judges on a website. But this doesn’t mean that you can question these disclosures. Now you might ask what use it is for us to know whether a particular judge has got several times more money than he should have when we can’t ask him where he got it from. But, look at the bright side of things. Peer pressure will eventually ensure that such discrepancies are corrected. Or so we hope.
The move to disclose the assets of judges is akin to dipping their toes in water. As they get used to the temperature, we are sure that their lordships will have no objection to the humble public asking them a sharp question or two. After all, judges hold our fates in their hands and we’d be more comfortable if we knew that such hands are beyond reproach. The argument that transparency could leave judges open to malicious litigation is a bit thin on the ground. The judiciary has procedures to screen both malicious and frivolous litigation and we are sure that our judges can put any mala fide litigant in his place. At the end of the day, this ‘know your judge’ scheme will only strengthen faith in the judiciary which is already held in high regard in a country where most other institutions have been undermined. Now that the SC judges have decided to let it almost hang loose, the lower judiciary will have to follow suit.
If this trend catches on, you might ask why we journalists don’t also reveal our true colours since we feel free to comment on others’ conduct. Ah, we are safe for now because we aren’t public servants, you see. So we’ll just leave you to guess whether we are really as down in the mouth as we make out. Or perhaps our lordships will crack the whip and force us to come clean one of these days.