Historic, say RTI activists after ruling on apex judges’ assets


New Delhi : Right to Information (RTI) activists from across the country Tuesday hailed the Delhi High Court’s ruling upholding its single bench order that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes within the purview of the RTI Act and details of judges’ assets should be revealed under it.

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“I have no words to express the importance of this judgement. The only thing I can say is that it is a landmark and historic decision. This judgement will take forward the torch of transparency and accountability in the country,” RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal told IANS.

It was on Agrawal’s petition that the Central Information Commission (CIC) had ruled that the office of the CJI is a public authority.

“We have won the battle at three stages — first CIC, then at the single bench high court last year and now today. But even then it does not seem to be final. The unfortunate part is that the Supreme Court lawyer has expressed his desire to approach the apex court itself,” Agrawal said.

“Is it not against the principles of natural justice that the Supreme Court approaches itself against the judgement?” he asked.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who fought the case for S.C. Agrawal, told IANS, “It’s a historic judgement and it should go a long way in emphasising that the judiciary is also accountable and all information relating to official functions discharged by the judiciary are accessible under the RTI.”

“The Supreme Court lawyers have indicated that they will appeal in the apex court against the decision. But that will undermine the stature of the judiciary,” Bhushan said.

The Supreme Court had appealed against the CIC order by the high court. But the high court in its Sep 2, 2009 verdict held that the CJI was a public authority and his office came within the purview of the transparency law.

The decision was, however, contrary to CJI K.G. Balakrishnan’s view – he has consistently maintained that his office is beyond the purview of the RTI Act.

A bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justices S. Muralidhar and Vikramjit Sen Tuesday upheld last year’s ruling of its single bench.

It said: “The subordinate judiciary is already declaring their assets. So when they are accountable, so are we. Thus, higher the judiciary, higher is the accountability towards the public at large.”

During the pronouncement of the judgement, the judges assured that they too would declare their assets next week.

Arvind Kejriwal, a Magsaysay award winning RTI activist, told IANS: “It is a landmark judgement for transparency lovers in the country.”

Delhi-based activist Manish Sisodia said: “It’s a victory of RTI. The regime of transparency is established again and again by such judgements.”

Mumbai-based activist Krishnaraj Rao said: “Brilliant’ I am glad that high court judges pronounced an order against the Supreme court. It’s amazing and is a huge victory for RTI. It only goes to show that no public authority, including the Supreme Court, is above the law of the land. The judgement is a great tonic to the citizen of India.”