After two years of resistance, the Supreme Court on Monday finally replied to a RTI query, saying its judges were declaring their assets to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The reply came on a day when the country’s top court challenged the ruling given by a single judge of the Delhi High Court on September 2 that the CJI’s office came under the ambit of the RTI Act.
“Without prejudice to our rights and contentions of the appeal.., you are hereby informed that all the sitting judges of the Supreme Court had filed the declaration of assets as per the resolution dated 7.5.1997,” the court informed Subhash Chandra Aggarwal.
It was the Supreme Court’s refusal to respond to his RTI application based on a news report in HT on November 7, 2007, that led to a two-year legal battle, which finally forced the judges to relent under public pressure and agree to declare their assets last month.
The Supreme Court had refused to accept a Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling in January, which had asked it to provide details under RTI on whether judges declare their assets. It challenged the CIC ruling in the Delhi High Court within 10 days, but failed to get any relief from the court.
The appeal prepared by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, on behalf of the Supreme Court cites 58 grounds on why Delhi HC judge Justice S. Ravindra Bhat’s judgment should be set aside. It also pleads for an immediate stay of the order.
The Supreme Court has criticised Justice Bhat’s verdict, saying he “travelled far beyond the issues raised in the court” and “proceeded on a completely new basis in his own analysis of the provisions of the constitution”.
The Supreme Court registry has challenged Justice Bhat’s finding that the CJI is a “public authority” under the RTI Act, and that he holds the information pertaining to asset declarations in his capacity as Chief Justice.