Immediate action is being taken even if one or two cases come before us, says Justice Balakrishnan
New Delhi: Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan on Saturday refused to join issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on corruption in judiciary.
He also made it clear that the office of CJI would not be covered under the Right to Information Act.
In the morning while inaugurating the conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices, Dr. Singh had said: “Apart from pendency and delayed justice, corruption is another challenge we face both in government and the judiciary.”
Addressing a press conference in the evening, the Chief Justice denied that Dr. Singh referred to corruption in judiciary. He said what the Prime Minister meant was that special courts must be created to deal with corruption cases. He refuted the charge of corruption in the judiciary and said “immediate action is being taken even if one or two cases come before us.”
He said there were about 6,100 cases investigated by the CBI, most of them related to corruption and what was suggested was more CBI or special courts to deal with such cases.
“Not under RTI”
Asked whether the CJI would come within the ambit of the RTI, he said: “The CJI is not a public servant in the strict sense. He is a constitutional functionary and constitutional authorities are not covered under the RTI.”
Declaration of assets
To a question whether Supreme Court judges declared their assets, Mr. Justice Balakrishnan said: “At the time of their appointment, every Supreme Court judge has to declare his assets. Thereafter if any property is purchased, he has to give the information to me in a sealed cover. This must be the case with High Court judges [who would furnish the information to the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned].”
On the introduction of a law in Parliament on judicial accountability, the CJI said it was well within the domain of Parliament to enact a law.
On the need for a change in the system of appointment of judges by the National Judicial Commission, he said: “We can’t say anything about this. We are bound by the Supreme Court judgment [in judges appointment].”
On the setting up of regional Supreme Court Benches in the south, west and east, the CJI said: “Only the Full Court of the Supreme Court has to take a decision in this regard.”
Asked whether the conference of CJs passed any resolution seeking hike in the salary of judges, the CJI said: “Though it was on the agenda, we never discussed it. Anyway if there is [an] increase in salary of other constitutional authorities, our salary will also be increased. Why should we go and bargain for this?” Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj intervened and said: “Judges never demand pay hike. It is only the government which raises their salary periodically taking into account various factors.”
He said: “Apart from setting up evening courts, we have requested the High Courts to increase the working hours by 30 minutes or to reduce the number of holidays and it is up to the respective Chief Justices to take action in this regard.” He, however, ruled out increasing the working hours in Supreme Court.
On raising the retirement age of judges, he said: “We have reiterated last year’s resolution that the age of High Court judges be raised from 62 to 65.”
Courts for petty cases
In his keynote address in the morning, the CJI pleaded for the setting up of new courts to deal exclusively with 59-lakh petty cases.
He said some special magistrates could be appointed and “if States are prepared to give some budgetary allocation for starting new courts, all these cases which have been pending for long could be disposed of.”
He wanted higher budgetary allocation for judiciary saying the present allocation was “grossly inadequate.”
“We have got an independent judiciary. We receive rebuke from the public for many things for which we are not responsible,” he said.