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Delhi HC rules that the CJI's office is within ambit of RTI RTI - Return from interrupt  Act &hence judges' assets can be made public

THE DELHI High Court The High Court of Delhi (Hindi: दिल्ली उच्च न्यायालय) was established on October 31, 1966.  on Wednesday ruled that the Chief Justice of India The Chief Justice of India is the highest position obtainable by a judge in India.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed on the basis of seniority by the President of India.
 ( CJI CJI Criminal Justice Institute
CJI Computer Jobs in Israel
CJI Centrul Pentru Jurnalism Independent
) is a public authority and his office came within the ambit of the Right to Information ( RTI) Act.

The landmark judgment also stated that disclosure of assets of Supreme Court judges made to the CJI could be made public.

The Supreme Court Registry had approached the high court against a Central Information Commission ( CIC CIC

circulating immune complexes.

CIC Circulating immune complexes. See Immune complexes.
) order directing it to respond to a query by an RTI applicant who sought to know whether Supreme Court judges declared their assets to the CJI in accordance with their resolution in 1997.

Dismissing the petition seeking to protect the office of the CJI, justice S. Ravindra Bhat directed the Supreme Court Registry to release within four weeks the information sought by petitioner S. C. Aggarwal.

The order can be challenged before a division bench of the high court or before the Supreme Court.

The judgment was welcomed by legal experts as bold and reasonable, reflecting the independence of the judiciary.

Lawyer Prashant Bhusan said it's a commendable com·mend  
tr.v. com·mend·ed, com·mend·ing, com·mends
1. To represent as worthy, qualified, or desirable; recommend.

2. To express approval of; praise. See Synonyms at praise.

 verdict. " It's a good and bold judgment because CJI K. G. Balakrishnan Konakuppakatil Gopinathan Balakrishnan (Malayalam language: കൊനകുപ്പക്കാട്ടില്‍ ഗോപിനാഥന്‍  was repeatedly saying that his office is not a public authority. However, the judgment is left open on personal information," he added.

" I think the judgment is a superb example of judicial independence. The fact that the Supreme Court Registry was, in effect, representing the entire body of judges representing the Supreme Court did not deter the judge from dealing with a highly sensitive Adj. 1. highly sensitive - readily affected by various agents; "a highly sensitive explosive is easily exploded by a shock"; "a sensitive colloid is readily coagulated"  and controversial issue is wholly correct," another legal luminary, K. K. Venugopal, said.

Constitutional expert P. P. Rao described the verdict as reasonable and said the stand of the Supreme Court to challenge the CIC order was not appropriate.

Eminent lawyer Ashok Arora said: " At least some judges have taken a stand. It was very strange and unfortunate on the part of the CJI to say that his office does not come under the purview The part of a statute or a law that delineates its purpose and scope.

Purview refers to the enacting part of a statute. It generally begins with the words be it enacted and continues as far as the repealing clause.
 of the RTI Act. The judiciary must be made accountable like any other organisation." Though the high court's direction is not of much relevance in view of the Supreme Court judges recently deciding to make their assets public, the verdict will open doors for people to seek other information from the office of the CJI. The Supreme Court Registry has been resisting the RTI application by Aggarwal since 2007. He had approached the CIC after the apex court's denial to pass the information he had sought.

The Supreme Court opposed the RTI applicant before the CIC, but could not defend its decision not to answer the innocuous in·noc·u·ous
Having no adverse effect; harmless.

innocuous (i·näˈ·kyōō·
 question put by him.

The CIC said Aggarwal had not sought details of judges' assets, but wanted to know if they were declaring their property and income.

The registry had contended that the office of the CJI was a separate public authority which was distinct from the Supreme Court and it could not give information that was with the CJI. Rejecting the argument, the CIC directed the registry to answer the query.

Refusing to give up, the registry approached the high court and strongly defended its decision.

Attorney general G. E. Vahanvati, then solicitor general An officer of the U.S. Justice Department who represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The solicitor general is charged with representing the Executive Branch of the U.S. government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
, was entrusted with the task of defending the stand taken by the Supreme Court.

The stiff stand taken by the Supreme Court was opposed by people from various walks of life. The CJI gave in and called a meeting of Supreme Court judges after his stand was opposed by several high court judges.

Even after a decision was taken to declare assets, the CJI maintained that the high court petition was relevant as it was necessary to protect the office of the CJI which had sensitive information.

Justice Bhat rejected the argument that the CJI could not reveal information on assets as it was held by him in a fiduciary capacity. He brushed aside the argument that the information was held by him in his personal and not official capacity.

The court did not agree to the contentions that the 1997 resolution passed by the judges on disclosure of assets to the CJI was not binding on the grounds that it was adopted to set the best ethical standards in the higher judiciary. " It would be highly anomalous to say that judges have no obligation to disclose their personal assets as standards of disclosure for the legislators, parliamentarians and administrators were set by a Supreme Court order. It would be robbing the solemnity SOLEMNITY. The formality established by law to render a contract, agreement, or other act valid.
     2. A marriage, for example, would not be valid if made in jest, and without solemnity. Vide Marriage, and Dig. 4, 1, 7; Id. 45, 1, 30.
 of the resolution to say that they were made with the expectation of not being implemented," he said.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Sep 3, 2009
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