Bowing to pressure, the Supreme Court judges in an unexpected move on Wednesday, decided to declare their assets, shedding their decades-old reluctance to open themselves to public scrutiny.
The decision came after a full-court meeting, lasting over two hours. “There was unanimity among all judges who attended the meeting,” a court official said, requesting anonymity.
The wealth details are likely to be posted on the Supreme Court website. “The modalities will be worked out soon,” said the official.
The decision will apply to all 24 Supreme Court judges, and is expected to inspire the 593 high court judges to follow.
Former chief justice of India J S Verma said: “I am very happy that the higher judiciary has finally kept its dignity intact.”
The credit for this decision goes to three high court judges who spoke out recently about their willingness to allow public scrutiny of their assets.
Karnataka High Court judge D V Shylendra Kumar fired the first shot by questioning Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s right to oppose the declaration of assets on behalf of all judges.
Punjab and Haryana High Court judge M.K. Kannan followed by posting his wealth details on a website. A day after, Madras High Court judge K. Chandru said he was willing to reveal details of his assets.
Many judges were reportedly unhappy with the government’s failed attempt to table a bill in Rajya Sabha on August 3, which proposed to keep judges’ assets confidential.
The issue first came into public domain in 1997 when the Supreme Court passed a resolution moved by then CJI Verma to make it mandatory for judges to declare assets. But there was no movement for nearly a decade. Since 2007, the judiciary has been on the defensive due to mounting allegations of corruption against top judges.