Judges in Uttar Pradesh differ over declaring assets

The judiciary in Uttar Pradesh is divided over the issue of declaration of their assets. While sitting judges of the Allahabad High Court, which also has a bench in the state capital, had earlier this week resolved to declare their assets "only to the chief justice", some retired judges see no reason why it should not be put on the official website or be made "freely available to the public by any other means."

"I fail to understand why a judge should have any hesitation in allowing common people to know about the assets held by him,"said Justice S.C. Verma, a retired Allahabad High Court judge who also held two successive terms as the state's Lok Ayukta.

Verma told IANS: "Times have changed and so have social values; today probity is extremely important for all those occupying high offices; judges must therefore themselves take the lead in making their assets public. Even if some judges have objections to putting their list of assets on the official website, they must ensure the details were freely available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act," he said.

"The moment you show any hesitation in allowing free access to such information, it is bound to be construed as your intent to hide something," Verma argued. Another retired Lucknow bench judge, Justice B.K.Singh, observed: "I am strongly of the view that all judges must not only declare their assets but also make these public by putting all details on the official website."
He claims to have been among the few who took the initiative to declare his assets before the chief justice, years before the RTI Act came into being. "Way back in 1993, the judges of  the Allahabad High Court had resolved to declare their assets before the chief justice and I had no hesitation in readily going ahead; today, with RTI having come into play, it is all the more important and logical for judges to  voluntarily declare their assets on the website", he said.

Earlier this month, a meeting of all 70 judges of the Allahabad High Court presided over by Chief Justice Chandra Mauli Prasad decided to declare their assets before the chief justice. Followed a similar consensus among Supreme Court judges on Aug 26 after much debate on the issue. It was a sitting judge of the Karantaka High Court who set the ball rolling. Subsequently, judges of the Punjab and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Mumbai and Sikkim High Courts made public their assets on their respective websites.

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