Delhi HC reserves order in assets case

Delhi HC reserves order in assets case

Judges declaration not binding, says AG

A bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah, Justices S Muralidhar and Vikramjeet Sen reserved its order after hearing arguments to nullify the September 2 ruling that the CJI is a public authority and that his office comes within the purview of the RTI Act.
Appearing for the Supreme Court registry, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati argued that the resolution regarding the declaration of assets by judges was non-statutory, non-binding and that it could not force a judge to declare assets.

Vahanvati said: “The resolution was meant for self-regulatory purposes and it cannot be binding.’’ He added that certain information with the CJI should not be made public.

Vahanvati said the high court had erred in declaring that the office of the CJI came within the ambit of the RTI Act. It  had interpreted the provisions of the Act too broadly, which was “unnecessary” and “illogical.”

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan has been consistently maintaining that his office is beyond the purview of the RTI law. He has said several documents such as communications between the CJI and the President, prime minister and other dignitaries and discussions in the collegium meeting should  not to be made public.

Upholding the ruling of the Central Information Commission (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 assets declaration 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 judgment had said.

The high court ruling had refuted the claim of the CJI saying that the registrar of the Supreme Court was part of the Supreme Court and cannot be categorised as a public authority that is independent and distinct from the Supreme Court.