Apex court moves HC on assets issue

Apex court moves HC on assets issue

CJI beyond the RTI Act purview, says SC

The Supreme Court Registry has filed an appeal against the judgement of a single bench of the high court before the double bench, seeking direction to nullify the September 2 ruling, which stated that the Chief Justice of India was a public authority, and that his office came within the purview of the transparency law.

Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan had been consistently maintaining that his office is beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act, and that communications between the CJI and the president, prime minister and other dignitaries and discussions in the collegium were not to be made public.

In a letter to Delhi resident Subhash Chandra Agrawal, on whose plea the Central Information Commission (CIC) had demanded the disclosure of the apex court judges’ assets, the Supreme Court Registry had informed him that the SC was all set to move the high court.

“An appeal against the judgment of the learned single judge (of the high court) dated September 2, 2009, in writ petition no 288 of 2009 has been kept ready for filing. But the appeal has not been filed since the Delhi High Court has been on vacation, and the registry is closed,” the letter said.

Upholding the ruling of the CIC, Justice S Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi High Court had said: “The CJI is a public authority under the RTI Act, and the CJI holds information pertaining to asset declarations in his capacity as chief justice; that office is a ‘public authority’ under the Act and is covered by its provisions.’’

According to Article 124 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is an institution headed by the CJI. “The institution and its head cannot be two distinct public authorities. They are one and the same.

Information, therefore, available with the CJI must be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court,’’ the 70-page judgement said.

The high court refuted the claim of the Chief Justice of India, saying that the Supreme Court Registrar is part of the apex court and cannot be categorised as a public authority that is independent and distinct from the SC itself.

Justice Bhat has directed the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the SC to provide information regarding the assets of the CJI and other judges in four weeks to Agrawal.

Unanimous descision

On August 26, the Chief Justice of India  and other judges of the apex court had taken a unanimous decision to declare their assets in public domain. However, the full court resolution had said that the Supreme Court would not entertain any Right To Information application on information regarding assets that would be posted on its website. But there had been no discussions on making public other documents.