Judges will have to come clean on assets

Judges will have to come clean on assets

The Bill on judicial reforms, while mandating that the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts declare their assets, makes it explicitly clear that no judge should permit any member of his immediate family to appear before him or use his residence for professional work.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, approved by the Union Cabinet recently, says a judge should declare his assets and liabilities within 30 days of taking oath. He should also declare the assets and liabilities of his wife and dependent children. The declaration should be made by July 31 each year. The draft Bill, a copy of which is with Deccan Herald, seeks to replace the existing Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

Declaration of assets by the judges was a major bone of contention between the judiciary and the Right to Information (RTI) activists in the recent past. A case was filed in the Supreme Court in 2007 by an RTI activist seeking information on the judges’ assets but it was denied to him. On January 12, 2010, the Delhi High Court said the office of the Chief Justice of India fell within the ambit of the RTI Act. There are several “don’ts” that the Bill prescribes. It says: “Every judge shall continue to practice universally accepted values of judicial life as specified in…this Act”.

According to the Bill, no judge shall contest election to any office of a club, society or other association or hold such effective office except in a society or association connected with the law or any court.

He should not have close association with individual members of the Bar, particularly with those who practice in the same court in which he is a judge; permit any member of his immediate family, who is a member of the Bar, to appear before him or associated in any manner with a cause he deals with.

He also should not permit any member of his family to use the residence in which the judge actually resides or use other facilities provided to the judges, for professional work. He cannot also hear a matter in which a member of his family or close relative or a friend is concerned.

He cannot give interviews to the media on his judgments, or accept gifts or hospitality except from his relatives. He cannot hear and decide a matter in which a company or society or trust in which he holds, or any member of his family holds shares or interest, unless he has disclosed his holdings or interest. He cannot speculate in securities or indulge in insider trading in securities or engage, directly or indirectly, in trade or business.

It says the Bill has been brought to “lay down judicial standards and provide for accountability of judges, and establish credible and expedient mechanism for investigating individual complaints for misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge, and to regulate the procedure for such investigation and for presentation of an address by Parliament to the President in relation to impeachment proceeding of a judge…”

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