08 March 2010

Right to info - SC judges don't get it, still

It appears that the Supreme Court (SC) has decided to appeal against the single judge and the 3 judge bench orders of the Delhi High Court asking it to comply with the right to information Act. See my previous posts on the issue here and here. As the case is quite clear, an appeal and a hearing before the Supreme Court itself (where it is an interested party) betrays a poor judgment of the judges of the highest court.

While much has been written about the ruling, commentators are drawing the wrong point from the whole issue. The issue is not about judges disclosing their assets under the RTI. In fact, the RTI protects the privacy of persons in office and does not mandate such disclosures except in extreme cases.

Disclosure of assets really owes its origin instead to the Association of Democratic Reform's (ADR) writ petition seeking transparency from those who stand for elections - a case where the Supreme Court ordered those standing in parliamentary elections to disclose their assets and criminal records (in separate rulings). There is also some resolution arising out of a meeting of judges in 1997 which is relied on to mandate disclosures - I haven't seen the resolution but wonder whether it has any legal sanctity as opposed to a moral force.

While it would be great if judges disclosed their assets out of their compunctions, the RTI Act is the law of the land and the will of the people; there is no option but to comply with it, whether a person or a group of persons likes it or not.

Note: The RTI query and the SC's reply can be found linked here.

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