The Delhi High Court on Thursday said the resolution passed by the Supreme Court judges for declaring their assets is binding on them, as it was part of the self-regulatory mechanism for the judiciary.
"If we accept your (apex court registry) arguments (that resolution is not binding on judges), then it would have serious implication on self-regulation. It is binding and its non-observance has certain consequences," a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice A P Shah said.
The Court pointed out that the resolution for declaring assets by the judges to the CJI was part of the broader issue of maintaining judicial values and it cannot be said to be non-binding as in-house proceedings can be initiated against a judge for violating the values.
The bench, also compromising Justices Vikramjeet Sen and S Muralidhar, however said it has to be considered whether assets of the judge's wife has also to be declared as it might amount to violation of their right to privacy.
The Court made the remarks when the Attorney General Goolam E Vahanwati contended the resolution was non-statutory, non-binding and it cannot force a judge to declare assets to the Chief Justice.
The bench was hearing an appeal filed by the apex court against the verdict of a single-judge bench of the High Court which had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the purview of Right to Information Act and details of judges' assets should be revealed.
The Attorney General said the single judge had erred in declaring that the office of CJI comes within the ambit of RTI Act and had interpreted the provisions of the Act too broadly, which was "unnecessary" and "illogical".
"Independence of judiciary is paramount... Non-declaration of assets does not mean demeaning and lowering of judicial values. Judges also need protection. They are most vulnerable in the society," he said adding if CJI's office is declared as a public authority under the RTI Act, then people would also seek information over the appointment and promotion of judges.
"The resolution was meant for self-regulatory purposes and it cannot be binding," he said.
The Court, however, said, "the author (Justice J S Verma) of the resolution does not say that now."
Favouring the legislation, the Chief Justice said, "I strongly feel the efficacy of these rules... From our side, I can say that it (declaration of assets) can be done."
"RTI is a wave and the law came into existence after several years of campaigning," the court said.
The High Court had in its September 2 verdict on the controversial issue held that the CJI was a public authority and his office came within the purview of the transparency law.
The judgement was contrary to the stand taken by CJI K G Balakrishnan who had consistently been maintaining that his office is beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act.