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Judges free to make public their assets: CJI
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January 23, 2009 23:16 IST

Amidst the raging clamour for disclosure of assets by judges, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Friday made it clear that it was up to the judges to make public their wealth and it was not an issue of his willingness.

"It is not a question of my willingness. If any judge wants to disclose he is welcome to do it," he told media persons when asked whether he had any objection if any judge was willing to voluntarily disclose his assets.

Some of the judges are believed to have insisted that the judges should make public their assets to set an example, while some others were of the view that they should go by the existing practice of disclosing their wealth to their respective Chief Justices.

The CJI said that the apex court judges will be meeting to discuss the issue but did not elaborate on when it would take place.

"There are so many problems that are discussed. We should be discussing that issue also (assets)," the Chief Justice remarked when asked by reporters whether there would be any meeting to discuss the controversial matter.

The Delhi [Images] High Court had on January 19 stayed an order passed by the Central Information Commission asking the Supreme Court's information officer to give information to an RTI applicant on whether judges of the apex court have declared their assets to the CJI.

On a petition filed by the CPIO of Supreme Court challenging the January 6 order passed by CIC, Justice Ravindra S Bhat of the Delhi High Court appointed eminent jurist Fali S Nariman as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist it and fixed February 12 as the next date of hearing of the matter.

However, Nariman refused to take up the responsibility and while expressing his reservations on assisting the court he said he has "very decided views" on the issue.

"I must regretfully decline the honour since I have very decided views on the merits of the matter," he wrote to Justice Bhatt.

In its petition, the Supreme Court said the information relating to declaration of assets by the apex court judges to the CJI was not a mandatory exercise under the law.

However, a full court resolution of Supreme Court on May 7, 1997 required every judge to declare to the CJI assets, including properties or any other investment, in the name of their spouse and any person dependent on them.

Challenging the CIC directive, the apex court said its order was excessive and without jurisdiction and the appeal made distinction between the apex court as an institution and the office of the CJI.

"Neither is the office of CJI a public authority nor does the information relating to judges' assets come in the public domain," the Supreme Court said.

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