In a news which might raise a few questions about the Indian Judiciary’s commitment to transparency, Economic Times has reported that half of Supreme Court’s judges are yet to make their assets available in the public domain.
8 years ago, the Supreme Court had passed a resolution which called for making the assets of its judges public. But it turns out that till now 12 of the 25 current judges of the Supreme Court are yet to make them public.
As per the resolution, such a disclosure is not mandatory, but reports regularly keep coming out about a lack of it As per the Bar & Bench report, this decision to publicise assets was taken by the court on 26th August 2009 as a result of great pressure from the public and even the judiciary.
This resolution incidentally was in accordance with another resolution dating back to 1997, where the judges were mandated to disclose their assets to the Chief Justice of India.
Now as per the Economic Times report, out of the 12 judges, direct elevations from the bar (that is those who were previously successful lawyers) like RF Nariman, Uday Umesh Lalit and L Nageswar Rao are yet to make their assets public.
The report also claimed that the process itself is not very complete, as for example no information is provided to show the assets of the judge before and after assuming office.
The details of the judges who indeed have declared their assets are available on http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/assets-judges in the following manner:
As seen from the screen grab, 13 judges have declared the assets, which include the current Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. This is a sample of his asset declaration [PDF]:
This debate on transparency comes days after the Supreme Court’s decision, to disclose its rationale behind making the collegium recommendations of judicial candidates. This collegium system till now didn’t disclose its rational behind transfers, elevation, appointments, and as a result this process was criticised by members of the legal fraternity for being opaque and arbitrary. In this collegium system, the final decisions are made by the 5 senior most judges headed by the Chief Justice.
Such a decision to make the collegium process more transparent comes about 2 years after the Supreme Court itself struct down the National Judicial Appointments Commission which had sought to inculcate a higher executive role in the whole process.