Political parties and legal experts on Thursday welcomed the decision by Supreme Court judges to make public their assets, describing it as a “step in the right direction” that could have come “earlier” to avoid needless controversy.
After months of intense debate over making public the details of assets of the higher judiciary, a decision “in principle” was taken on the issue at a meeting convened by Chief Justice of India K. G. Balakrishnan on Wednesday.
The spokespersons of the BJP and the Congress, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Abhishek Singhvi, respectively, also hailed the move. Mr. Singhvi, who maintained that he was airing his “personal opinion”, said “it is a very good and welcome step“. The judiciary has avoided “further needless controversy”, but it could have been avoided if the decision was taken earlier, he said. “It is a question of public perception and public confidence, trust, faith and in that light it is a step in the right direction,” Mr. Singhvi said.
Mr. Prasad said the “welcome” gesture shown by the judiciary should be appreciated. “I am afraid that this decision could have been taken earlier and the unfortunate controversy over the last couple of months could have been avoided.” He also said he has a “humble request” to make to “my lords” — “please don’t speak in public, don’t write articles, including the retired judges. That restraint is equally important.”
A boost to the image of the judiciary, says Sorabjee
Former Attorney General and constitutional expert, Soli Sorabjee, said “it is a very good decision taken by judges“. “I think it is a very good development. It’s better late than never,” Mr. Sorabjee said, adding that the judges have heeded to the views of former Chief Justices and senior advocates who were also very keen to maintain the image of the judiciary. “I am sure their initial reluctance not to declare assets was not because they had anything to hide. They had misgivings that it may be misused,” he said. Mr. Sorabjee said the decision will raise the stature of the judiciary in public eye. “It raises the stature and image of the judiciary and what is more it reinforces the confidence of the litigants in the supreme judiciary,” Mr. Sorabjee said.
“The whole controversy had become very unsavoury with this kind of suggestions that judges have something to hide — they want to be above the law. I am so happy that the Supreme Court has risen to the occasion,” senior lawyer Harish Salve said.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had launched a campaign on the issue, said it would also now encourage judges of High Courts to make public their assets. “It is absolutely a welcome move and I am sure it will also encourage the judges of the High Courts to publicly declare their assets and force the government to put up assets of government servants on public website which can be accessed by the people,” Mr. Bhushan said.
Senior advocate K. K. Venugopal termed the decision as “excellent“. “I think it is the greatest step that the judiciary could take because it has cleared all the clouds which have been hanging over the issue,” he said.