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Thread: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges

  1. #1

    Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    When Supreme Court judges adopted a resolution a decade ago to make a periodic declaration of their assets to the Chief Justice of India, they took care to state that the details of their holdings would not be made public. But now, the court is being evasive on whether judges have been filing such declarations at all.

    In his response to an RTI (right to information) application, the court’s central public information officer (CPIO), additional registrar Ashok Kumar, simply said that the information relating to declaration of assets by judges is "not held by or under the control of" its registry and therefore could not be furnished by him.

    The file notings, in possession of The Times of India , show that this elusive reply was given with the approval of the Chief Justice of India, Justice K G Balakrishnan, who is himself supposed to be the custodian of those declarations.

    The file related to the RTI query on asset disclosures was in fact placed before Justice Balakrishnan on two occasions.
    The first time was when a note prepared by the CPIO on November 27, 2007, was "put up to Hon. CJI for approval" by the head of the SC registry, secretary general V K Jain.

    The second time was when Jain again "submitted for orders" of the Chief Justice a slightly revised note of the CPIO dated November 30, 2007.
    The second note bears Justice Balakrishnan’s signature with the same date. In a typically brief reference to the three points proposed to be mentioned in the RTI response, the Chief Justice wrote: "A, B & C approved."

    What is crucial is point B, which says: "The applicant may be informed that the information relating to declaration of assets by Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court is not held by or under the control of the Registry, Supreme Court of India, and therefore cannot be furnished by the CPIO, Supreme Court of India, under the Right to Information Act, 2005."

    In keeping with the CJI-approved note, the CPIO wrote his formal reply under RTI on that very day, November 30, 2007.

    The documentation behind the CPIO’s reply and the CJI’s approval of the evasion came to light thanks to another RTI application seeking disclosure of the file notings.

    It has exposed the apex court’s resistance to transparency: Though the CJI can easily say whether judges have been filing declarations of their assets, the CPIO is made to claim under the RTI Act that the information is not in possession of the registry.

    The matter is now pending before the Central Information Commission, which will have to give a ruling on whether the Supreme Court could be allowed to make a distinction between its registry and the office of the CJI in an obvious bid to confer immunity on the latter from any obligation under the RTI Act.

    If the justification offered for stonewalling the question on assets is taken to its logical conclusion, the CPIO for the Supreme Court cannot answer questions related to the CJI’s office and Justice Balakrishnan will therefore have to appoint a separate CPIO for himself.

    The RTI Act does not exempt the CJI from its purview.
    =========================
    As Reported in Times of India on 14 Apr 2008



  2. #2
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    Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    RTI Act 2005 provide for access to information held by a Public Authority.

    Under the RTI Act, it is not only the information held by the PIO or one particular department which can be accessed...it is the information held by the full public authority (in this case Hon'ble CJI is part of the Supreme Court , a PA). In any case, the PIO of a PA is not supposed to be the repository of all the information in the PA and therefore under Sec 5(4) and 5(5) he can seek assistance of any other officer of the PA to get the information and provide to the applicant.

    The CPIO/Registry cannot claim that since they are not the custodians or in control of the information sought, they cannot provide it. There is no such ground for rejection under Section 8.

    The CPIO should seek the information from the Hon'ble CJI under Section 5(4) or 5(5). Alternatively, if the CPIO feels that the information sought is held by another PA or is a matter closely related to another PA, he can very well transfer the application (or its part) under Sec 6(3).
    Twitter: @cjkarira

  3. Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    Great! Keep it up.

  4. #4

    Judges unwilling to Share Wealth Details



    Judges unwilling to Share Wealth Details

    As Reported by Nagendar Sharma in Hindustan Times April 20, 2008

    THE JUDGES of the Supreme Court and High Courts are not willing to divulge details of their wealth and disciplinary action taken against them on corruption and misconduct charges.

    Documents available with HT have revealed that the Supreme Court wanted changes in the Right to Information Act (RTI) to allow appeals seeking judiciary related information to be decided by court officials only, and not by the Central lnformation Commission.

    Making public his views on the issue, the Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had made it clear on Saturday that the RTI Act was not applicable to his office. "Constitutional functionaries are not covered under the RTI," he said.

    However, top jurists, including former Chief Justices of India, J.S. Verma and V.N. Khare have expressed dismay and shock over the reluctance of the Supreme Court and High Courts to provide information sought by the people under RTI. "If there is reluctance to provide infbrmation, I am willing to be the first to volunteer and see to it that all correspondence regarding appointments and exec- utive actions during my tenure as Chief Justice should be made public," Justice Verma said.

    Justice Khare said the judiciary could not escape accountability measures, which it wanted others to follow "Everybody holding a constitutional office in this country is accountable, and so are the judges.

    It is important for them to come clean and be seen as above suspicion," he said. In a letter to the CIC, the Supreme Court had in 2006 said, "No appeal or any other proceedings shall lie against the order of the Chief Justice of India or his nominee. Any appeal arising out of the order passed by an officer of the Supreme Court inferior in rank to Registrar General of the court, shall be before the Registrar General."

    The CIC, however, did not accept the controversial recommendation and maintained that the right to decide the final appeal lies with the commission. The Supreme Court refused to provide information on the number of judges against whom action was taken on complaints of corruption and misconduct.

    "There was no such information available with the court as neither the Supreme Court nor the Chief Justice of India is the appointing or disciplinary authority in respect of superior courts, including High Court judges," the Supreme Court said in its reply to a RTI query that sought to know the number of judges against whom corruption allegations were probed.

    The reply contradicts Supreme Court's own resolution adopted in 1999, in a meeting attended by 19 judges, that put in place an in-house procedure for taking "suitable remedial action against judges not following accountability standards". Similarly, in response to a question, which wanted to know if judges were submitting details of their assets to respective Chief Justices, the Supreme Court replied, "The information relating to declaration of assets by hon'ble judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts is not held by or under the control of registry of the court and therefore, cannot be furnished under the RTI Act."

    The court reply again runs contrary to its own resolution of 1997 on declaration of assets, which was decided in a full meeting attended by 22 judges.

    BACKLOG OF CASES Pendency 2,52,55,982 Subordinate courts 3,700,223 High Courts 46, 926 Supreme Court (figures as on Sept 30, 2007) Judges vacancy 284 High Courts 273 3, Subordinate Courts a Retired government servants and court staff possessing Law degree to dispose of petty cases. a Amendment of CrPC fixing a time limit for various stages of trial n Guidelines to prevent unwarranted adjournments

  5. Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    Dear Members,
    Mr Sidharth has posted a very informative matter concerning RTI evasion by the Apex Court. On one hand it erodes the credibility of the Supreme institution, while on the other it may result in evasion/delay by other PAs as well.
    For example, Railways have plethora of branches-Traffic, Signal, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Commercial, Personnel..............managed by different executive heads. The CPIO is any one who is only a nodal officer and does not keep records of various branches, but supplies the requested information.
    The CIC should be able to pass suitable orders for mending the attitude, without fear or favor.
    aamaadmi
    Last edited by Shrawan; 21-04-08 at 02:31 PM. Reason: language moderation

  6. #6

    Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    Dont expect any volunteer disclosures or any transparency( RTI applicability) from constitutional authorities YET. But ,it will all be there in open,its just a matter of time.This nation is on move and writings are there on the wall,very clearly written for all to see.

  7. #7

    Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    It is really very disheartening to read that the CJI hold a view that may tempt many others to follow. What message does it send?

  8. #8
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    Re: Supreme Court Evasive on Asset Declaration by Judges


    I am not worried about what he says or thinks or the message he sends.

    I am worried about the precedent he is setting.

    The present Hon'ble CJI might be the most honest person on this planet but just in case the future occupants of this constitutional post are not as honest as him, why is he setting a bad precedent for the future.

    In any case, what is there to hide ?
    Twitter: @cjkarira

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