SC slams Delhi HC judge who said the CJI comes under RTI

October 9, 2009: The Indian Express

Challenging the Delhi High Court order directing it to disclose assets of judges under the Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court today called it an “error in law¶ and an “academic¶ exercise.

It said all its judges had filed declaration of assets as per the 1997 resolution but the office of the Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court registry were not one and the High Court “single judge erred in law in holding that all the information received by the CJI falls under the purview of the Act¶.

The Supreme Court, filing an appeal okayed by Attorney General G E Vahanvati, called for setting aside the September 2 order of Justice S Ravindra Bhat. It said the Full Court Resolution of 1997 was an “in-house procedure developed within the judiciary on the basis of only moral authority, which places it at a lower footing¶.

Justice Bhat had held that the CJI was a public authority whose office was within the purview of the RTI law.

 The Supreme Court appeal questioned why Justice Bhat delved into “irrelevant¶ issues like the “role of judges in society… role of courts and the scheme of power-sharing… duties of judges¶ which constitute no “legal basis¶ for invoking the RTI against Supreme Court judges.

“The learned single judge had undertaken an exercise of elucidation of the concepts of essential ethical behaviour of judges which are not relevant for determining whether the RTI applicant had a right to information,¶ the appeal said.

The Supreme Court said all its sitting judges were declaring their assets before the CJI. In line with the HC order, it informed RTI applicant S C Agrawal today that “all the sitting judges of Supreme Court had filed the declaration of assets as per the resolution dated May 7, 1997.¶ It also said that an appeal was being filed against the HC order.

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