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Judges’ wealth: Info body seeks opinions

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karira

As reported in indopia.in on 24 January 2009:

486157 : National : Committee urges SC not to press petition before Delhi HC

 

Committee urges SC not to press petition before Delhi HC

 

Hyderabad

 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has urged the Supreme Court registry not to press its writ petition pending before the Delhi High Court in the case related to declaration of assets by judges.

 

"The Supreme Court registry may use its wisdom to save the Right to Information Act by not pressing the writ petition it filed in the Delhi High Court. The petition will harm the RTI Act," the Parliamentary Standing Committee chairman E M Sudarsana Natchiappan has observed.

 

Talking to reporters after a two-day review of implementation of RTI Act, reservation policy, vigilance and prevention of corruption in public sector undertakings here today, Natchiappan said the Standing Committee would soon submit a recommendation to Parliament for doing away with application fee for RTI petitions.

 

"RTI applications are being rejected on frivolous reasons such as application fee of Rs 10 not paid by the applicant. This is leading to appeals right up to the High Courts. For the sake of Rs 10, government is forced to spend Rs 10,000 on the court case," Natchiappan pointed out.

 

A detailed report on the implementation of the RTI Act in various public sector undertakings would be presented to Parliament soon, he added.

 

Referring to the reservations issue, the chairman said the PSUs have been asked to clear all backlog with respect to recruitments as well as promotions."In the last one year, there has been good progress in the implementation of reservation policy for Scheduled Tribes. Similar effort should be made with regard to SCs, OBCs and physically-challenged," he said.

 

" Canara Bank has recruited 71 visually-challenged persons at different levels followed by Syndicate Bank (47) and Corporation Bank (30). It's a good progress in the past one year," Natchiappan said.

 

Referring to corruption and vigilance in public sector undertakings, the Standing Committee chairman said complaints regarding corruption fell significantly from double digits to single digit, particularly in banks.

 

In banks, he pointed out, vigilance and corruption control mechanism was doing well up to the level of the general manager."We are now requesting the Government of India to take it further up to the top levels of banks so that corruption could be tackled more effectively," he added. Other PSUs too were adopting a two-layer vigilance and corruption control mechanism, he said.

 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee reviewed the activities in Andhra Bank, National Mineral Development Corporation, Mishr Dhatu Nigam Limited, Bharat Dynamics Limited, Electronics Corporation of India Limited and State Bank of Hyderabad.

 

The seven-member committee also held discussions with Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary P Ramakanth Reddy and Chief Electoral Officer I V Subba Rao on the proposed amendments to the Representation to People Act and also the Constitution (108 Amendment) Bill (women reservation). The committee also took views of political parties on these Bills pending in Parliament.�

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karira

As reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 26 January 2009:

SC sowed seeds of right to information about assets in 2002-India-The Times of India

 

SC sowed seeds of right to information about assets in 2002

 

NEW DELHI: French poet, playwright and novelist Victor-Marie Hugo, exponent of `Romantic Movement', wrote the immortal words -- "invasion of

armies can be resisted, but an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted" -- in his mid-19th century novel `The History of a Crime'.

 

Exactly 150 years after Hugo wrote his book, the Supreme Court in 2002 delivered its path-breaking judgment on electoral reforms [union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) 5 SCC (294)]. It knew the necessity of new ideas to sustain the health of a democracy and sowed the first seeds of right to information.

 

It mandated the Election Commission to seek information on the antecedents -- including assets, educational qualification and criminal background -- of candidates in the fray to enable voters to exercise informed choice.

 

The central idea behind this judgment -- the voter's informed choice being the key to democracy -- was distilled long ago by Sir Winston Churchill, who had said, "At the bottom of all high-sounding tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of the point."

 

Nonetheless, it sparked a brand new idea in the Indian context. It was about time to arm the voters, either muscled or misled by money, with information. And no one, not even an army of politicians, could resist it. For the idea was fortified by a sound legal principle -- "you be ever so high, the law is above you".

 

The rapturous applause that followed the 2002 judgment had numbed even the most cunning among unscrupulously powerful politicians. Despite finding it unpalatable, they bowed before the idea of empowering voters.

 

And the seed of the idea sown in 2002 has now grown into a huge tree through the Right to Information Act, 2005. In a short span, it has helped many citizens to dig out hitherto forbidden official data to apprise themselves of the perspective, mindset or hidden agenda behind important decisions touching their daily lives.

 

Now, the fruits of the apex court's effort have come back to haunt it in the form of a directive from Central Information Commission (CIC) wanting to know whether judges of Supreme Court declare their assets periodically to the Chief Justice of India as per a 1997 judicial resolution.

 

The SC, as an institution, has so far resisted an answer to this query on the ground that the information sought was not in public domain but in the private domain of the CJI, to whom the judges voluntarily provide details of their assets.

 

One is not sure of the reasons behind the resistance to collective disclosure of assets by judges, though the CJI has given freedom to individual judges to do so on their own. What are they scared of -- breaking a tradition, fearful of misuse of such data or is it something else?

 

The public reaction, as seen in the views of constitutional experts like Fali S Nariman, Soli J Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani, is fast turning the idea into a storm as the debate invariably ends in `those who preach should practise'.

 

At this juncture, those who can should convince tradition-respecting judges that nothing untoward would happen if they declare their assets. It would only help raise their stature and respect, still intact to a large extent among public and litigants, and silence judiciary baiters.

 

There is another advantage. Once judges reveal assets, which in a majority of cases would be so meagre that it would make people realise how difficult it was for judges to live on the lowly salary they were paid till the recent hike.

 

Moreover, successive CJIs, including incumbent Justice K G Balakrishnan, have unequivocally declared both from the Bench and in public that `black sheep', deadwood and corrupt have no place in judiciary. Everyone knows that a minority among judges bring a bad name to the judiciary. When it is so, declaring assets would provide a means to identify the `black sheep' and get rid of them.

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karira

As reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 26 January 2009:

SC sowed seeds of right to information about assets in 2002-India-The Times of India

 

SC sowed seeds of right to information about assets in 2002

 

NEW DELHI: French poet, playwright and novelist Victor-Marie Hugo, exponent of `Romantic Movement', wrote the immortal words -- "invasion of

armies can be resisted, but an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted" -- in his mid-19th century novel `The History of a Crime'.

 

Exactly 150 years after Hugo wrote his book, the Supreme Court in 2002 delivered its path-breaking judgment on electoral reforms [union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) 5 SCC (294)]. It knew the necessity of new ideas to sustain the health of a democracy and sowed the first seeds of right to information.

 

It mandated the Election Commission to seek information on the antecedents -- including assets, educational qualification and criminal background -- of candidates in the fray to enable voters to exercise informed choice.

 

The central idea behind this judgment -- the voter's informed choice being the key to democracy -- was distilled long ago by Sir Winston Churchill, who had said, "At the bottom of all high-sounding tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of the point."

 

Nonetheless, it sparked a brand new idea in the Indian context. It was about time to arm the voters, either muscled or misled by money, with information. And no one, not even an army of politicians, could resist it. For the idea was fortified by a sound legal principle -- "you be ever so high, the law is above you".

 

The rapturous applause that followed the 2002 judgment had numbed even the most cunning among unscrupulously powerful politicians. Despite finding it unpalatable, they bowed before the idea of empowering voters.

 

And the seed of the idea sown in 2002 has now grown into a huge tree through the Right to Information Act, 2005. In a short span, it has helped many citizens to dig out hitherto forbidden official data to apprise themselves of the perspective, mindset or hidden agenda behind important decisions touching their daily lives.

 

Now, the fruits of the apex court's effort have come back to haunt it in the form of a directive from Central Information Commission (CIC) wanting to know whether judges of Supreme Court declare their assets periodically to the Chief Justice of India as per a 1997 judicial resolution.

 

The SC, as an institution, has so far resisted an answer to this query on the ground that the information sought was not in public domain but in the private domain of the CJI, to whom the judges voluntarily provide details of their assets.

 

One is not sure of the reasons behind the resistance to collective disclosure of assets by judges, though the CJI has given freedom to individual judges to do so on their own. What are they scared of -- breaking a tradition, fearful of misuse of such data or is it something else?

 

The public reaction, as seen in the views of constitutional experts like Fali S Nariman, Soli J Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani, is fast turning the idea into a storm as the debate invariably ends in `those who preach should practise'.

 

At this juncture, those who can should convince tradition-respecting judges that nothing untoward would happen if they declare their assets. It would only help raise their stature and respect, still intact to a large extent among public and litigants, and silence judiciary baiters.

 

There is another advantage. Once judges reveal assets, which in a majority of cases would be so meagre that it would make people realise how difficult it was for judges to live on the lowly salary they were paid till the recent hike.

 

Moreover, successive CJIs, including incumbent Justice K G Balakrishnan, have unequivocally declared both from the Bench and in public that `black sheep', deadwood and corrupt have no place in judiciary. Everyone knows that a minority among judges bring a bad name to the judiciary. When it is so, declaring assets would provide a means to identify the `black sheep' and get rid of them.

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colnrkurup

"you be ever so high, the law is above you".

In ancient India, during the Coronoation ceremoney, after a King is crowned and when the King declare that his the supreme, the Raj Guru places his yogchan over the Kings shoulders and utters " You are not the supreme but this yogchan (yogachan representing the law) is over you " Please note that the Rajguru does not say that his supreme.

 

I still could not digest as to how a person of eminence such as the CJI could say that he is above constitution ?

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colnrkurup

"you be ever so high, the law is above you".

In ancient India, during the Coronoation ceremoney, after a King is crowned and when the King declare that his the supreme, the Raj Guru places his yogchan over the Kings shoulders and utters " You are not the supreme but this yogchan (yogachan representing the law) is over you " Please note that the Rajguru does not say that his supreme.

 

I still could not digest as to how a person of eminence such as the CJI could say that he is above constitution ?

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taurus

Is it as you sow so you reap syndrome?

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taurus

Is it as you sow so you reap syndrome?

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karira

A column by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in indianexpress.com on 27 January 2009:

For the judges’ sakes

 

For the judges’ sakes

 

The manner in which the Supreme Court has responded to the Information Commission’s ruling on the disclosure of information regarding judges’ assets compromises not just the idea of accountability, but the idea of the rule of law itself. Members of the court have raised several legal points about the scope of the RTI Act and the status of the court’s own resolution on declaration of assets adopted in 1997. But in the very process of quibbling over legal technicalities, it has compromised the essence of the rule of law in five different ways.

 

First, and most straightforwardly, it has lent credence to those who think double standards are involved in the court’s refusal to disclose information on assets of judges. The court has itself, in a number of decisions been making strong pronouncements about the fact that public officials should disclose their assets. By exempting itself from standards it is imposing on other functionaries, the court has weakened the authority of its own claims. The irony is that the original petition didn’t even ask for the public declaration of assets; it asked whether any declarations had in fact been made under the 1997 resolution.

 

Second, judges could claim that they are unlike other public officials. But so far, in all the pronouncements that have emerged, the court has actually not given any serious constitutional argument for why they should be exempt from such revelations. In other countries arguments have been made for exempting the judiciary on some interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers. Whether one agrees with this line of argument is beside the point. The more important issue is that in the debate in India the issue has not been framed in terms of constitutional first principles at all.

 

Third, the court undermines its own authority as an institution by effectively rubbishing a resolution on disclosure passed by a full court meeting of twenty-two judges. This particular resolution may not, strictly, have the status of law. But by effectively downgrading its status and denying its binding character, the court has rendered toothless the authority of its own resolutions. If indeed the court wanted to depart from that resolution, the least it could do is pass another resolution and explain why it did so.

 

Fourth, we can debate the technicalities of the law. But there is something unseemly about the Supreme Court seeking relief from a high court in matters pertaining to it. If the court has the courage of its constitutional convictions it should make a first principles constitutional argument. But the idea that a court that is in some senses subordinate to you, whose personnel are under your hierarchical powers, should be asked to pronounce on a matter in which justices of the Supreme Court have expressed opinions is distinctly odd. Cumulatively, what this case implicates is not just accountability, but double standards, lack of constitutional argumentation, undermining of institutional rules within the court, and violation of commonsensical rules of hierarchy.

 

But, perhaps more egregiously, the court’s attitude tells us something larger about the way it thinks of the rule of law. There seems to be a lot of concern about possible misuse of the mechanism. But this is a distinctly odd concern. The solution to this is to have mechanisms that protect judges by distinguishing legitimate and illegitimate complaints. But to make this concern a decisive factor would be to undermine the idea of the rule of law, since possible misuse is potentially true of almost any norm. Second, there seems to be lot of second-guessing about what the disclosure of assets might do the judges’ authority. But here there is a fallacy involved. Very little credit is being given to popular opinion. The fact that many judges are enormously wealthy will not, by itself, be a cause of consternation against judges. It has not mattered much in the case of politicians, and most people, unlike intellectuals, look to the substance of arguments, not their class origin. And most people understand that good lawyers can legitimately accumulate vast assets. The two circumstances under which wealth will matter are these: first, if there is an aura of illegality or underreporting in the judges’ known assets. I suspect the real fear is that many judges will have assets in property; and this is a class of assets that carry the aura of being compromised. But by giving this fear credence the judges are already acknowledging a widespread complicity. Second, disclosures would matter if there is a disproportionate and unexplained increase in assets after becoming a judge. This is really the core area of concern for citizens. But arguably full disclosure will help the judiciary because it will remove a source of unwarranted speculation.

 

As Fali Nariman’s creditable stand and the public clamour is making clear, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the rule of law may win the technical legal battle, but it risks losing in the court of morality and history. The court is acquiring the reputation of being one of the most untransparent institutions in matters such as appointments. It is not clear that its authority runs even over its own high courts.

 

Just last month the Supreme Court rightly hauled up the Orissa high court, which had passed an egregious judgment in a rape case. The Supreme Court said “A bare reading of the high court’s order shows a complete non-application of mind. Some of the conclusions are clearly contrary to the law as laid down by this court. The conclusions are not only confusing but border on the absurd. It baffles us as to why the high court says that ‘law is well settled that it is not possible for a single man to commit sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will... To say the least, the conclusion is not only contrary to law laid down by this court, but also shows scant regard for law declared by this court.”

 

This case may be particularly sensational, but it points to a broader trend where the idea of the rule of law is becoming more difficult to institutionalise within the judiciary. Law depends fundamentally on authority; honourable judges would do well to remember that the assets issue is not about holding them accountable, it is about maintaining their authority.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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karira

A column by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in indianexpress.com on 27 January 2009:

For the judges’ sakes

 

For the judges’ sakes

 

The manner in which the Supreme Court has responded to the Information Commission’s ruling on the disclosure of information regarding judges’ assets compromises not just the idea of accountability, but the idea of the rule of law itself. Members of the court have raised several legal points about the scope of the RTI Act and the status of the court’s own resolution on declaration of assets adopted in 1997. But in the very process of quibbling over legal technicalities, it has compromised the essence of the rule of law in five different ways.

 

First, and most straightforwardly, it has lent credence to those who think double standards are involved in the court’s refusal to disclose information on assets of judges. The court has itself, in a number of decisions been making strong pronouncements about the fact that public officials should disclose their assets. By exempting itself from standards it is imposing on other functionaries, the court has weakened the authority of its own claims. The irony is that the original petition didn’t even ask for the public declaration of assets; it asked whether any declarations had in fact been made under the 1997 resolution.

 

Second, judges could claim that they are unlike other public officials. But so far, in all the pronouncements that have emerged, the court has actually not given any serious constitutional argument for why they should be exempt from such revelations. In other countries arguments have been made for exempting the judiciary on some interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers. Whether one agrees with this line of argument is beside the point. The more important issue is that in the debate in India the issue has not been framed in terms of constitutional first principles at all.

 

Third, the court undermines its own authority as an institution by effectively rubbishing a resolution on disclosure passed by a full court meeting of twenty-two judges. This particular resolution may not, strictly, have the status of law. But by effectively downgrading its status and denying its binding character, the court has rendered toothless the authority of its own resolutions. If indeed the court wanted to depart from that resolution, the least it could do is pass another resolution and explain why it did so.

 

Fourth, we can debate the technicalities of the law. But there is something unseemly about the Supreme Court seeking relief from a high court in matters pertaining to it. If the court has the courage of its constitutional convictions it should make a first principles constitutional argument. But the idea that a court that is in some senses subordinate to you, whose personnel are under your hierarchical powers, should be asked to pronounce on a matter in which justices of the Supreme Court have expressed opinions is distinctly odd. Cumulatively, what this case implicates is not just accountability, but double standards, lack of constitutional argumentation, undermining of institutional rules within the court, and violation of commonsensical rules of hierarchy.

 

But, perhaps more egregiously, the court’s attitude tells us something larger about the way it thinks of the rule of law. There seems to be a lot of concern about possible misuse of the mechanism. But this is a distinctly odd concern. The solution to this is to have mechanisms that protect judges by distinguishing legitimate and illegitimate complaints. But to make this concern a decisive factor would be to undermine the idea of the rule of law, since possible misuse is potentially true of almost any norm. Second, there seems to be lot of second-guessing about what the disclosure of assets might do the judges’ authority. But here there is a fallacy involved. Very little credit is being given to popular opinion. The fact that many judges are enormously wealthy will not, by itself, be a cause of consternation against judges. It has not mattered much in the case of politicians, and most people, unlike intellectuals, look to the substance of arguments, not their class origin. And most people understand that good lawyers can legitimately accumulate vast assets. The two circumstances under which wealth will matter are these: first, if there is an aura of illegality or underreporting in the judges’ known assets. I suspect the real fear is that many judges will have assets in property; and this is a class of assets that carry the aura of being compromised. But by giving this fear credence the judges are already acknowledging a widespread complicity. Second, disclosures would matter if there is a disproportionate and unexplained increase in assets after becoming a judge. This is really the core area of concern for citizens. But arguably full disclosure will help the judiciary because it will remove a source of unwarranted speculation.

 

As Fali Nariman’s creditable stand and the public clamour is making clear, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the rule of law may win the technical legal battle, but it risks losing in the court of morality and history. The court is acquiring the reputation of being one of the most untransparent institutions in matters such as appointments. It is not clear that its authority runs even over its own high courts.

 

Just last month the Supreme Court rightly hauled up the Orissa high court, which had passed an egregious judgment in a rape case. The Supreme Court said “A bare reading of the high court’s order shows a complete non-application of mind. Some of the conclusions are clearly contrary to the law as laid down by this court. The conclusions are not only confusing but border on the absurd. It baffles us as to why the high court says that ‘law is well settled that it is not possible for a single man to commit sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will... To say the least, the conclusion is not only contrary to law laid down by this court, but also shows scant regard for law declared by this court.”

 

This case may be particularly sensational, but it points to a broader trend where the idea of the rule of law is becoming more difficult to institutionalise within the judiciary. Law depends fundamentally on authority; honourable judges would do well to remember that the assets issue is not about holding them accountable, it is about maintaining their authority.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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karira

As reported in centralchronicle.com on 29 January 2009:

Central Chronicle--Bhopal

 

Judges should disclose assets: Faizanuddin

Bhopal, Jan 28: Justices of the Supreme Court and high courts should disclose their assets - for ethical reasons and as a good practice - to avoid misconception and growing suspicion in the public mind and more so when it is obligatory on other functionaries to declare assets, a former Supreme Court judge has opined.

 

''The Supreme Court is at the crossroads of a ticklish and unprecedented situation emerging from the question of disclosure of assets by Supreme Court and High Court judges,'' Justice (Retd) Faizanuddin - Madhya Pradesh' ex-Lokayukta - said in a statement faxed to.

 

Incidentally, as a sitting judge of the apex court, he was one of the affirming signatories of a note circulated amongst Supreme Court judges seeking approval of the move for passing a resolution for disclosure of assets by judges pursuant to which a resolution dated May 7, 1997 was passed after his retirement.

 

''In fact, the resolution was to be passed much earlier - in 1996 - but was postponed for certain reasons. Indeed it sounds very strange and ironical when we see that the Supreme Court, the repository of all judicial powers at the apex level, itself had to approach the High Court for redress of its grievances (thereby) posing an embarrassing situation before the High Court,'' Justice Faizanuddin wrote.

 

''I as a judge believe that the judiciary is also covered by the RTI (Right to Information) Act of 2005. Definitely there could be no different rules or standards for the judiciary and rest of the public authorities under the act - the provision of exemption apart,'' he added.

 

In all this exercise the central point focussed on by the RTI Act is to ensure accountability and transparency in functioning and dealings of public authorities with no exception to the judiciary. ''The judiciary is an institution that commands regard not only in the country but has earned great appreciation the world over for its standards and independence. In fact the judiciary is the last hope of the people and let this faith and confidence reposed by people not be shaken and allow the candle of hope to remain burning in their minds,'' felt Justice Faizanuddin.

 

The controversy therefore must be resolved as soon as possible and the judiciary itself should come forward voluntarily by taking a lead to earn public trust, credibility and confidence and thereby lay down an exemplary tradition and practice and save itself from the ''setback'' it has already suffered due to certain reported incidents.

 

''Therefore, it is my feeling that it would be in the fitness of things if the Supreme Court graciously withdraws the appeal and agrees for disclosure of assets,'' the jurist wrote.

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karira

As reported by Nagendar Sharma in hindustantimes.com on 30 January 2009:

UK, US judges declare assets, Indian judges don?t want to- Hindustan Times

 

UK, US judges declare assets, Indian judges don’t want to

 

On January 21, his first day in office, the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, signed his first official document. It read: “Starting today every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

 

That reversed a post-9/11 Bush administration policy making it easier for government agencies to deny requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act. Why can't judges?

 

A day after Obama lifted the curtain of secrecy, an Indian government advertisement released to newspapers read: “Promise fulfilled. Citizens get the Right to Information. Government accountability ensured. Transparency in administration ensured.”

 

That’s an election promise that the Congress-led UPA government did fulfill, making the right to information a law in 2005. The problem is it hasn’t gone far enough, with every branch of the bureaucracy less than keen to part with information, even about themselves and their working. In a three-part series, the Hindustan Times will explore how and why the enforcers of a law that could truly make India's governments more responsive and efficient are themselves resisting scrutiny.

 

Start with the Department of Personnel and Training, the agency responsible for ensuring your right to information. Its website says: “Information means any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, which can be accessed by a public authority under the law but does not include file notings.”

 

If you liken files with information to your home’s water tank, file notings are like pipes directing water. It isn’t enough to peer into the water tank: You need to know where and how the water is flowing. It’s a critical distinction that allows government servants to resist every attempt at transparency.

 

It’s no surprise then that the Supreme Court is presently embroiled in a tussle with the Central Information Commission (CIC) about making the finances of judges open to the public. For good measure, the commissioners are themselves divided over allowing public scrutiny of their own finances.

 

“Those sitting in high offices in any institution want to be treated as holy cows and that is the biggest stumbling block in the way of a transparent regime,” said Magsaysay award winner and information activist Arvind Kejriwal.

 

A textile trader leads the charge

 

As always, it is citizens who are driving change.

 

The revelation that Supreme Court judges are not keen to declare their assets emerged when a 60-year-old Delhi textile businessman, Subhash Chandra Aggarwal, filed a right-to-information application back in 2005.

Harassed by a judge, who was interfering in his case in Delhi High Court in return for “favours offered” by Aggarwal’s opponents, he filed a complaint against him with the Chief Justice of India.

 

“When I got no reply for months, the RTI Act came as a boon for me, and I filed an application wanting to know the status of my complaint,” said the Chandni Chowk resident, who has filed more than 1,000 right-to-information applications on various issues over three years.

 

Aggarwal then read in the Hindustan Times on November 8, 2007, that judges did not want to reveal their assets. Quoting the Right to Information Act (RTI), he wrote to the Delhi High Court.

 

“As usual I got no reply from the high court and Supreme Court, so I went into appeal in the CIC,” said Aggarwal. “The matter continued for months, and then finally I got an order on January 6 this year. I never expected it to become such a huge issue.”

 

Once the order became public, the judiciary appeared defensive. Chief Justice of India K. G. Balakrishnan said: “We do not agree with the CIC order and would challenge it.”

 

Instead of using the opportunity to make its internal affairs transparent — as is done in the U.S. or the U.K. —the Supreme Court tried to stonewall any attempts to subject judges to public scrutiny.

 

In the U.S. judges declare their assets and the gifts they receive regularly in newspapers, while all financial details about U.K. judges are posted on the website.

 

In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court challenged the CIC order in the Delhi High Court, which has stayed the commission order. The case will now be heard on February 12.

 

Watch this space.

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Atul Patankar

Editorial by The Hindu on January 31, 2009

Transparency within the judiciary serves at least two important purposes — it decreases the opportunities for corrupt practices and promotes public confidence in the institution. Given these vital roles, it is surprising that there should be stiff judicial resistance to making public whether members of the higher judiciary are submitting declarations about their financial assets as they are expected to. Such declarations after all were supposed to be made to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justices of the respective high courts in accordance with a 1997 resolution adopted at an all-India judges conference. Against this background, it is inexplicable that the Supreme Court should block the Central Information Commission’s order asking it to provide this information to an applicant under the Right to Information Act. The Court’s decision to challenge the order in the Delhi High Court — high courts are the final court of appeal under the RTI Act — is both unprecedented and, under the circumstances, quite unnecessary. It would have been far more sagacious had the Court simply made the information — which the CIC rightly described as “innocuous” — available. As the CIC order pointed out, the appellant was not seeking details of the declared assets but just “the simple information as to whether any such declaration of assets etc. has ever been filed by the judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts.”

 

Why is a Supreme Court that held that people have the right to know the financial assets of MPs and MLAs at the time of filing nominations so reluctant to answer even this limited question? The Court’s appeal is based on the contention that the disclosure of assets by judges to the Chief Justice of India is voluntary and not mandated by any law. Moreover, the office of the CJI cannot be construed as a public authority under the RTI Act. The thrust of the appeal suggests a general anxiety over a larger question — if and to what extent the standards of information disclosure mandated by parliament are applicable to the judiciary. This is a complex issue that needs to be settled to ensure transparency even while safeguarding judicial independence. Transparency and accountability in the judiciary, however, are larger issues that go well beyond the question of the applicability of the RTI Act. Since he assumed office, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has earned a well-deserved reputation of being responsive to public and professional concerns. He needs to ensure that not just the answer to the question whether all the judges have declared their assets but also the details of the assets themselves are placed in the public domain. Such transparency will enhance the credibility of the judiciary as an institution

 

Source : The Hindu : Opinion / Editorials : Time for disclosure

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karira

An Opinion/Article by Jayanthi Natarajan in The Asian Age on 02 February 2009:

The Asian Age - Enjoy the difference

Judges must make their assets public

Jayanthi Natarajan

 

Feb.2 :An unprecedented event occurred on January 19, and due to the usual national brouhaha over usual things, this was reported and covered only in passing. The Supreme Court of India — and bear with me for repeating the obvious — the apex law court in the country, the final word on any legal issue regarding citizens of India, with sentencing power of life and death over citizens, unlimited financial jurisdiction, and the last word on interpretation of the Indian Constitution, filed a petition in a lower court. Yes, the Supreme Court filed a petition in the Delhi high court challenging an order passed by the Central Information Commission asking the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to disclose if judges of the apex court have disclosed their assets to him. Acting upon this petition filed by the CPIO of the Supreme Court, Justice Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi high court stayed the order passed by the CIC, and issued a notice to the CIC, and the original RTI petitioner Subash Chandra Agarwal.

 

The two important issues, namely, whether judges are bound to disclose their assets publicly, as is done by the President of India, the vice-president, the Prime Minister, and every elected MPs and MLAs, and second, whether judges are bound to disclose information — other than that which may compromise national security, or a part of their judicial functioning — are matters which are being discussed in the public arena now. However, the amazing logic of the Supreme Court filing a petition in a court subordinate to it is unprecedented, not only in legal but also in democratic history. What, I ask myself, is the Delhi high court expected to do in these circumstances? If it passes an order against its own superior court, will the Supreme Court appeal to itself? Or if the Delhi high court passes an order in favour of the Supreme Court, can the CIC or Subash Chandra Agarwal appeal to the Supreme Court against the Supreme Court? Can they really hope for justice and a fair hearing? And even if they do get justice, would it not be a travesty of all principles of fairplay and equity if judges were to adjudicate in their own cause? The Supreme Court is the last bastion of the legal system in this country, and the court will certainly be aware of the complexities of the matter. However, as an ordinary citizen I cannot but wonder how it is possible for the Supreme Court to be a petitioner in a lower court.

 

The more fundamental debate relates to the issue of judges of the high courts and Supreme Court declaring their assets publicly. Our Constitution, framed as it was in more idealistic times, is silent on this subject and it is only over the last decade or so that legislators have been mandated by law to declare their assets at the time of filing nomination. The Representation of the People Act has been suitably revised. However, it is significant to note that there is no comparable law with regard to the judiciary in this regard. Judges, who hold supreme power over citizens, governments and the law, are not yet mandated by law to declare their assets to the public. As long as this issue remained dormant there was no real discussion, but the moment this issue was raised, the most rational and right-thinking answer is that it would be in the best interests of our democracy and judicial system if judges publicly declared their assets. In fact, this conclusion is so natural and obvious for such a variety of reasons that it is difficult to fathom why there is a counter-argument.

 

On May 7, 1997, the Supreme Court passed an informal resolution which required judges to privately declare their assets to the Chief Justice of India. Thereafter, when an application under the RTI Act was filed requesting for details of this resolution and other information, the court refused to share the information on the ground that it was not mandated by law, and that this was private information. The Chief Justice of India also wrote to all his fellow judges, including judges of high courts, and asked them to abide by the "Restatement of Values of Judicial Life" and uphold the spirit of the May 7 resolution. However, around the same time the Chief Justice also took the public stand that judges of the Supreme Court and high courts were not bound by the RTI Act and, therefore, not bound to declare their wealth. However, several former Chief Justices of India, including J.S. Verma and V.S. Khare, have stated that it would serve the interests of democracy and justice better if judges too declared their assets, thereby making their functioning more transparent.

 

There are now troubling news reports that a section of judges in the Supreme Court feel that their assets should indeed be publicly disclosed, and the Chief Justice himself declared on January 23, 2009, that if judges want to voluntarily declare their assets he would not be against it. This issue is, however, too vital and basic for our democratic functioning to be left in the realm of conjecture, deduction or discussion. It is of paramount importance that the matter be once and for all settled, beyond all doubt. The public needs to be very clear that judges too are covered by the RTI Act in so far as it does not impact upon their judicial functioning, and further, judges too, like other constitutional functionaries, are bound to declare their assets at the time of taking office.

 

Transparency and accountability are the foundations of our democratic polity. In recent years the judiciary has been instrumental in restoring many important and basic rights to citizens through path-breaking judgments and interpretation of laws, and for this reason it is held in high esteem by the general public. The people of India look to the Supreme Court to once again follow its own high standards and make a final pronouncement in this regard which will uphold the citizen’s Right to Information.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.

The views expressed in this column are her own

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karira

An edit by Sandhya Jain in dailypioneer.com on 03 February 2009:

The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> Donâ??t let the rot spread

 

Don’t let the rot spread

 

The Supreme Court today stands at an historic crossroads: It can choose the path of transparency and public honour, or the one that leads to opacity and doubt. By a curious coincidence, public confidence in some of the Republic’s most trusted institutions is under strain at a difficult moment in the nation’s history, and it is up to those manning these bodies to redeem their prestige.

 

Some actions have been questionable from the start. In the aftermath of the post-Godhra conflict in 2002, the Supreme Court reacted to an unsigned petition forwarded by the National Human Rights Commission to transfer the Best Bakery cases to Mumbai to ensure a ‘fair trial’, unmindful of the disrepute this brought to the Gujarat High Court. This hyper-activism was wholly one-sided, and when Zahira Sheikh, whose ‘testimony’ justified the transfer, did an about-turn and claimed to have been misled by a prominent NGO, she was virtually browbeaten by a court-appointed inquiry commission that refused to investigate the finances of her alleged tormentor.

 

Neither the apex court, nor the NHRC offered any explanation for acting upon unsigned documents! More recently, many female victims in the said cases have testified in court that they were never raped, never made claims of rape before the police, and signed the affidavits written in English ‘in good faith’. Thus, a range of Gujarat victims have publicly testified to being misused by politically motivated activists, and the Supreme Court and other authorities have maintained studied silence on the issue.

 

As for the NHRC and National Commission for Women, their ability to get results seems to have a decided political tint. On November 21, 2008, some public-minded citizens approached both bodies for action on the matter of the sworn affidavit of Sadhvi Pragya, arrested in the Malegaon blasts case, which detailed horrendous torture and illegal detention. The two bodies issued notices to the Mumbai Police; Ms Girija Vyas wrote a follow-up letter to the new Maharashtra Chief Minister; but neither institution has got a response.

 

There seems to be a tacit political understanding about which requests will be answered and which will be ignored, which makes the existence of such bodies pointless. NCW Member Nirmala Venkataraman has now taken suo motu notice of the recent violence against young women in a Mangalore pub; if the Commission acts on this case before taking up the more scandalous case of the abuse of a sadhvi, it will expose itself.

 

Then there is the Election Commission of India, much respected under Mr TN Seshan. Even though the EC had not finalised dates for holding the Lok Sabha election, Election Commissioner SY Qureshi announced a ‘schedule’ on a trip to London. This facilitated the ruling UPA to announce pre-poll sops before the code of conduct became operative, and prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas were promptly reduced. Now, failure to act on the CEC’s recommendation to remove controversial Election Commissioner Navin Chawla can only further diminish the commission’s status.

 

But the piece de resistance is the Supreme Court approaching the Delhi High Court for relief against the verdict of the Central Information Commission bringing the Chief Justice of India under the purview of the Right to Information Act. Expectedly, it got a stay order, and the case is now posted for hearing on February 12, 2009.

 

The case is astounding for the bizarre fact that in the (albeit unlikely) event of losing in the High Court, the Supreme Court will naturally suffer immense damage to its prestige. And if it seeks relief against this judicial rebuff, it will be appealing to itself as the apex court! It will thus be both the petitioner and the judge — a situation unprecedented in the annals of judicial history.

 

The origins of the current crisis lay in the 1997 Full Court Resolution of the Supreme Court that judges must declare their assets: “Every judge should make a declaration of all his/her assets in the form of real estate or investments, held by him/her or spouses or dependants, within a reasonable time of assuming office.” Additional declarations must be made each time they acquire additional property or make further investments of a substantial nature.

 

It seems, however, that these noble intentions were never adhered to, either in the apex court or any of the high courts. Matters came to a head when a Delhi textile trader, SC Agrawal, irked by the behaviour of a particular judge, filed an RTI appeal in 2007, asking if judges declared their assets to the respective Chief Justices. The CIC upheld his demand to know if the 1997 Full Court Resolution was being implemented on January 6, 2009.

 

Though the appeal did not seek details of the judges’ assets, the Supreme Court became defensive and challenged the CIC’s right to know if the declarations were being made at all. Simultaneously, public pressure compelled Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan to write to all High Court Chief Justices in August 2008 to ensure that the Full Court Resolution of 1997 is honoured. It would appear that the honourable judges are extremely uncomfortable about declaring their assets in the manner that MPs and MLAs do.

 

In its official spat with the CIC, the Supreme Court in November 2008 held that declaration of assets by judges before the Chief Justice of India was “voluntary” and in his personal capacity; that the Full Court Resolution was not an official document; and that the disclosures were not meant for the public. This prompted Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah to ask if declarations made to the CJI are intended to be passed on to successor-judges in office.

 

To a dispassionate observer, the Supreme Court is clearly on the back foot in this case. The movement for greater judicial probity and accountability comes in the wake of scandals that have rocked public confidence and judicial esteem — the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam; the Rs 15-lakh scandal involving a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court; the demand to impeach Kolkata High Court judge Soumitra Sen; and compulsory retirement of several judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. With the rot spreading, the sooner the Supreme Court sides with probity and public accountability, the better.

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Atul Patankar

As reported by NDTV.com on February 11, 2009

 

Judges assets case: HC defers hearing till Feb 27

 

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday deferred hearing on a petition filed by the Supreme Court challenging Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing that information pertaining to assets of the judges should be revealed.

 

Justice S Ravinder Bhat adjourned the matter for further hearing on February 27 after Solicitor General G E Vahanvati sought time to file the reply.

 

The Court had on January 19 stayed the order of the CIC that the office of Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI Act and information given to CJI has to be revealed to the RTI applicant.

 

The petition was filed by the CPIO of Supreme Court challenging the January 6 order of the CIC.

 

In the petition, the Supreme Court said that information relating to declaration of assets by the apex court judges to the CJI was not a mandatory exercise under the law.

 

However, a full court resolution of Supreme Court on May 7, 1997 required every judge to declare to the CJI assets including properties or any other investment in the name of their spouse and any person dependent on them.

Source : NDTV.com: Judges assets case: HC defers hearing till Feb 27

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Legal Correspondent at www.thehindu.com on 15 February, 2009

 

Eminent citizens urge judges to voluntarily disclose assets

 

 

Legal Correspondent

 

To advance the cause of transparency and probity in public life

 

In line with the requirement for all civil servants

It will be applauded as an act of statesmanship

 

 

New Delhi: Eminent citizens from various walks of life have appealed to Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan and judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to voluntarily disclose their assets to advance the cause of transparency and probity in public life.

 

Code of conduct

In an appeal sent to the CJI and other judges the signatories pointed out that in 1997, while adopting the “Restatement of Judicial Values” (also called the code of conduct), the judges of the Supreme Court decided that each judge would declare his/her assets in confidence to the CJI. This was reiterated in 1999 in a conference of the Chief Justices. These resolutions were adopted in the light of a growing public perception that there was lack of accountability of the higher judiciary. This was also in line with the requirement of declaration of assets by all civil servants to the government.

 

Court’s rationale

The statement said: “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. In any case, with the Right to Information Act, 2005, now in place, it is clear that the disclosure of assets by public servants to the government or to any other authority would be accessible to the citizens under the RTI Act. The exemption from disclosure under the RTI Act would not apply to disclosure of assets of public servants.

“Several eminent former judges and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, including Justice Krishna Iyer and Justice J.S. Verma, have publicly expressed the view that it would be desirable for judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to publicly declare their assets. By doing so, they would be setting an example of transparency in the country which would then be emulated by other public servants. Such voluntary disclosure of assets by judges [without resort to the RTI Act] would be applauded as an act of statesmanship by the people of this country, at a time when people have become cynical about the integrity of public servants. It would greatly advance the cause of transparency and probity in public life.

“We therefore call upon you to set an example for public servants by voluntarily making public your asset declaration.”

 

The signatories are: Admiral R.H. Tahiliani, former Chief of the Naval Staff and Director, Transparency International, India,; Aruna Roy, founder, MKSS and RTI and NREGA activist; Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary, Water Resources; Vikram Lal, Chairman, Common Cause; Madhu Bhaduri, former ambassador; Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, JNU; Anil Sadgopal, education activist and former Professor of Education, Delhi University; Jean Dreze, former Member, National Advisory Council; Vandana Shiva, education and agriculture activist; Trilochan Sastry, Professor and Dean, Academic, IIM-Bangalore; Yogendra Yadav, Professor, CSDS; Prashant Bhushan, convener, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform; Arvind Kejriwal, Magsaysay awardee and RTI activist; N. Bhasker Rao, Chairman, Centre for Media Studies; Harsh Mandar, Director, Centre for Equity Studies; Ravi Chopra of the People’s Science Institute; Kamini Jaiswal, advocate, Supreme Court; Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD; Mira Shiva, health activist; Kavita Srivastava, secretary, PUCL Rajasthan; Gautam Navlakha, human rights activist; Nikhil Dey of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information; Arun Kumar, Professor of the JNU; and Dunu Roy, Director, Hazard Centre.

 

Source: The Hindu : National : Eminent citizens urge judges to voluntarily disclose assets

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Atul Patankar

As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 19 February, 2009

 

States prompt in appointing RTI commissioners, but not for benevolent schemes

 

NEW DELHI: Entangled in a legal row over a direction from the Central Information Commission (CIC) to make assets of judges public, the Supreme Court on Wednesday drew a sarcastic parallel between appointment of commissioners under the RTI Act and those to help disabled persons enjoy equality.

 

A PIL petitioner told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices J M Panchal and P Sathasivam that the `Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act' was enacted in 1996 but states were lax in appointing commissioners to supervise implementation of the law.

 

The 1996 law provided for prevention and detection of disabilities as well as education, employment, non-discrimination and social security for disabled persons with a mandate that any violation could be reported to the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities in the Centre and commissioners in the states.

 

The Bench, to its dismay, learnt that though the chief commissioner at the Centre had been appointed, many states were yet to appoint commissioners.

Before directing full implementation of the 13-year-old law by providing the grievance redressal mechanism through commissioners, the Bench did not let go the opportunity to take potshots at state governments.

 

It said, "Some Acts are implemented immediately but some are not. When laws relating to collection of surcharges and taxes are concerned, the states are very prompt to put in place the mechanism. But when it comes to giving effect to benevolent laws, they are not so prompt."

 

It added, "For example, appointment of central information commissioner and information commissioners under the RTI Act was very prompt, but the states are not so prompt when it comes to giving effect to the law relating to disabled persons."

 

The Bench directed the chief commissioner under the 1996 law to give a status report as to which states had not made requisite appointment and requested the states to make necessary appointments expeditiously.

 

Source :States prompt in appointing RTI commissioners, but not for benevolent schemes-India-The Times of India

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karira

As reported by Dhananjay Mahapatra and Abhinav Garg of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 25 February 2009:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4185188.cms

 

SC judges ready to declare assets, they tell Delhi High Court

 

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court judges are willing to make public their assets, but will not do so until a fresh law is enacted to address their fears

of misuse of the information they will be required to put in the public domain.

 

The apex court on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that its judges "are not opposed to declaring their assets", but qualified that with the assertion that RTI Act does not provide the mechanism or law under which they could make the declaration.

 

The response, while seeming to indulge the growing demand from within and outside to apply the transparency norms to judges, is clearly tilted in favour of status quoists on the Bench.

 

SC was widely seen as reluctant to apply the transparency norms to itself when it moved the HC against an order by the Central Information Commission passed under the RTI Act asking SC to disclose whether the judges had been scrupulously following their own informal resolution of 1997 and declaring assets regularly to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

 

The SC has addressed the perception by saying that its appeal against the CIC's order was not intended to raise technical objections to avoid declaring assets of judges, but had to do with a "fundamental question of law and principle with regard to the scope and applicability" of RTI Act.

 

"Having said that, it must also be clarified that judges of the SC are not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declarations are made in accordance with the due procedure laid down by a law," the court said.

 

The stance that the RTI Act was not applicable to judges and that the CJI was not a public authority as defined under the transparency law comes through clearly.

 

The earlier argument was that the CJI not being a public authority under the RTI Act, the declarations made to him by judges under the informal resolution of 1997 could not be said to be information under the public domain, hence available to be accessed by general public with the help of provisions of the right to information law.

 

The present stand before the HC means that SC judges were willing to declare their assets provided a separate mechanism was made available through legislative process by Parliament, which the judges desired must have following provisions:

 

* The authority to which the declaration would have to be made

 

* The form in which the declaration would have to be made along with clear definition of what constituted `assets'

 

* Proper safeguards, checks and balances to prevent misuse of the information which would be made available on judges' assets

 

The rest of the arguments advanced by the SC was nothing but its already known view — how the information on judges assets was in private domain and non-applicability of the RTI Act to it.

 

It said, "The voluntary declarations given by the judges cannot be said to be information in public domain. Under the Act, the right to information is in respect of information which is required to be held by a public authority under the provisions of law. In the instant case, there is no legal or constitutional requirement for filing the declarations and as such, the declarations filed, if any, cannot be the subject matter of the Act."

 

The informal resolution of May 7, 1997, under which the judges made voluntary declaration, has no force of law. Hence, the information with the CJI about the assets of judges could not be accessed under RTI Act as it was not information held by a public authority under any law, the SC said.

 

Moreover, it said the information on assets available with the CJI was "purely and simply" personal information, which under the RTI Act is specifically exempt from disclosure.

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sandeepbaheti
"Having said that, it must also be clarified that judges of the SC are not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declarations are made in accordance with the due procedure laid down by a law," the court said.

 

The procedure is already laid down by a law. RTI Act is a law.

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karira

As reported in news.outlookindia.com on 26 February 2009:

news.outlookindia.com | Information on Judges' Assets Cannot be Revealed: SC

 

Information on Judges' Assets Cannot be Revealed: SC

 

The Supreme Court has said declaration of assets by its judges to the Chief Justice are "personal" information which cannot be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

The apex court, in a submission before the Delhi High Court, however, made it clear that its judges are not opposed to declaring their assets but there is no legal obligation to do so.

 

"It is submitted that the information which is sought for (pertaining to judges assets) is purely and simply personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity," the apex court said in its affidavit.

 

"Under the RTI Act, the right to information is in respect of information which is required to be held by a public authority under any provision of law. In the instant case there is no legal or constitutional requirement for filing the declaration and as such, the declaration filed if any cannot be subject matter of the Act," the court said.

 

The seven-page affidavit was filed in response to a reply of an RTI applicant who pleaded that all information given to CJI comes within public domain and that he cannot be denied such information.

 

The apex court contended that resolution passed by its judges pertaining to declaration of assets is binding in law.

 

"The said resolution dated May 7, 1997 does not have force of law. In these circumstances the RTI applicant has no right to access information as such information is not held by any public authority under any law," the affidavit said adding "It is submitted that the voluntary declaration made are outside the purview of the RTI Act."

 

The apex court said the judges are not averse of declaring their assets but there should be a proper law prescribing the manner of declaration with proper safeguard to prevent misuse of such information.

 

"Judges of the Supreme Court are not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declaration are made in accordance with due procedure laid down by a law," the affidavit said.

 

Meanwhile the Delhi High Court Bar Association has also filed an application seeking to be impleaded in the matter.

 

The High Court is scheduled to hear the matter tomorrow.

 

The Court had on January 19 stayed the order of the CIC that the office of Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI Act and information given to CJI has to be revealed to the RTI applicant.

 

The petition was filed by the CPIO of Supreme Court challenging the January 6 order of the CIC.

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taurus

The concept of 'personal information', under the RTI Act is again oversimplified and the exemption provision is misinterpreted in this news item. It gives an impression as if 'personal information' is exempted under the Act. The fact is that 'personal information', per se is not emepted under the Act.

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karira

As reported in ddinews.gov.in on 27 February 2009:

HC defers hearing on plea on declaration of judges' assets - www.ddinews.com

 

HC defers hearing on plea on declaration of judges' assets

 

The Delhi High Court deferred hearing on a petition filed by the Supreme Court challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing that assets of the judges should be made public.

 

 

Justice S Ravinder Bhat adjourned the matter and posted it for further hearing on 17th March.

The Court, however, issued notice to contesting parties on an application filed by the Delhi High Court Bar association seeking to be impleaded in the case and asked them to file their reply by the next date of hearing.

Advocate Gaurav Duggal, appearing on behalf of the Supreme Court, opposed the plea of Bar Association and said there is no such necessity for it to be made party in the case.

The Supreme Court in its affidavit had said declaration of assets by its judges to the Chief Justice is "personal" information which cannot be revealed under the Right to Information Act.

The apex court, in a submission before the High Court, however, had made it clear that its judges are not opposed to declaring their assets but there is no legal obligation to do so.

"It is submitted that the information which is sought (pertaining to judges assets) is purely and simply personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity," the apex court had said.

 

"It is submitted that the information sought is not in public domain. The voluntary declaration given by the judges cannot be said to be information in public domain," the apex court had said.

"Under the RTI Act, the right to information is in respect of information which is required to be held by a public authority under any provision of law. In the instant case there is no legal or constitutional requirement for filing the declaration and as such, the declaration filed if any cannot be subject matter of the Act," the apex court had said.

The seven-page affidavit was filed in response to a reply of an RTI applicant who pleaded that all information given to CJI comes within public domain and that he cannot be denied such information.

The apex court had contended that resolution passed by its judges pertaining to declaration of assets is not binding in law.

"The said resolution dated 7th May, 1997 does not have force of law. In these circumstances the RTI applicant has no right to access information as such information is not held by any public authority under any law," the affidavit said.

 

"It is submitted that the voluntary declaration made are outside the purview of the RTI Act," the affidavit added.

 

The apex court had said the judges are not averse to declaring their assets but there should be a proper law prescribing the manner of declaration with proper safeguard to prevent misuse of such information.

"Judges of the Supreme Court are not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declaration are made in accordance with due procedure laid down by a law," the affidavit said.

The Court had on 19th January stayed the order of the CIC that the office of Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI Act and information given to CJI has to be revealed to the RTI applicant.

The petition was filed by the CPIO of Supreme Court challenging the 6th January order of the CIC.

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MOHANDAS

Thank you Shri Kariraji for posting the information reg. furher development develoopment in this regard.

 

The matter has been adjourned as usual. Taking the matter in its right perspective why not the Hon'ble Justices make a rule in this regard and delcare their assets in the back drop of the facts that there exists already a resolution passed by the Hon'ble S.C to declare their assets. It is a known fact now there are black sheeps available in the Judiciary also. So in order to be transparent in their dealings, in all fairness, Hon'ble Justices may delcare their assets and create a sense of morale to be followed by others thus end the legal battle.

 

 

MOHANDAS.

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colnrkurup

Why should WE THE POEPLE OF INDIA be contend with such mercies ?. Not acceptable. We are not interested in the judges declaring any suo moto declaration as a mercy. That is not the issue. To-day, it is the issue of declaring assets and tomorrow it will be something else. Why would we deviate from the core issue ? The question to be decided is whether WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA are under the Constitution of India and does the Judges of India including its Chief is part of WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA.? A selected fiew of the society granted certain privileges by the Constitution of India cannot turn around and say that We are Constitutional Authorities and hence we are beyond the Constitution. Let us settle this issue first. Rest of the things will fall into places.

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rajub

The core issue here is whether the information held by CJI of SC (because of resolution of 1997) is disclosable information under RTI Act.

 

If the case is settled in favour of non disclosure it will open pandora's box.

 

More and more PIO's will try to justify the refusal of information being voluntarily supplied information especially in case of assets.

 

In that case what about the preamble of RTI Act which says due to this act it will help reduce the corruption?

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      Sent from my SM-J510FN using RTI INDIA mobile app
       
       
       
    • shrivar1212
      By shrivar1212
      Hello,
      I require help on co-operative issue. I had filed the RTI with the PIO, Dy registrar of co-op societies seeking information on affairs of society.
      The PIO has replied stating that the information I am seeking is available with co-operative society. My query is:
      1] Can PIO direct an applicant to private body for information?
      2] The society in question comes under the jurisdiction of the PIO, since PIO is public authority and co-operative society a private body, is it not duty of PIO to seek information from society and give it to me? How can PIO direct me back to society? This is RTI application, either I have to appeal or I have to forego. I cannot complaint against reply. So I want to approach FAA, under what grounds can I?
      3] What kind of violation PIO has committed by directing me back to private society? 
      4] Does co-operative society come under the purview of RTI ACt?
      Your views are appreciated. I am fighting lone battle with corrupt system. 
       

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