Supreme Court to rule today on bringing the Chief Justice under RTI Act

A Constitution Bench of the court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on Wednesday whether the office of the Chief Justice of India should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The personal assets of seven of a total of 34 Supreme Court judges are now available in the public domain.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, Arun Mishra, R. Banumathi, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan have listed their assets in the Supreme Court website.

Voluntary act

Declaration of assets by a judge is a voluntary act towards transparency.

The five-judge Constitution Bench set to pronounce the judgment in the case is led by Chief Justice Gogoi. Justices Ramana, D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna are other members of the Bench.

In 2009, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, as a Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court, had declared the CJI’s office as having a duty to disclose the details of personal assets of other apex court judges. “All power — judicial power being no exception — is held accountable in a modern Constitution,” Justice Bhat had concluded in 2009. He had observed that a judge whose decisions could impact people’s lives, property, liberties and individual freedoms, and who interprets duties and limitations placed upon State and non-State agencies, has an obligation to disclose his or her personal assets to someone or an authority.

Justice Bhat was recently elevated from the Delhi High Court to the Supreme Court. Another Supreme Court judge whose parent high court is Delhi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, is not among the seven whose assets are listed on the website.


Judicial independence

A three-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court, sitting in appeal, had upheld the Single Judge Bench’s conclusions.

Consequently, the Supreme Court’s Central Public Information officer had moved the apex court, contending that disclosure of its judges’ “personal details” under the RTI would affect their judicial independence.

The case stems from an RTI request made by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal in the Supreme Court for the complete correspondence between the Collegium and the government on certain judicial appointments.

Reserved appeal

A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi heard and reserved the appeal in April 2019.

“Nobody wants a system of opaqueness, but in the name of transparency we cannot destroy the institution of judiciary,” Chief Justice Gogoi had orally observed on the last day of hearing.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 9:42:15 PM |

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