A Constitution Bench of the court headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to pronounce its verdict at 2 p.m. on November 13 on the question of whether the office of the Chief Justice of India should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The five-judge Constitution Bench set to pronounce the judgment in the case is led by Chief Justice Gogoi, Justices Ramana, D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
As of now, the personal assets of seven of a total of 34 Supreme Court judges are now available in the public domain wherein Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, Arun Mishra, R. Banumathi, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan have listed their assets on the Supreme Court website. However, the declaration of assets by a judge is currently a voluntary act towards transparency.
The present case finds its origins in an RTI request made by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal in the Supreme Court for the complete correspondence between the collegium and the government on certain judicial appointments.
Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, in 2009, as a Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court, had declared the CJI’s office as “having a duty to disclose the details of personal assets of other apex court judges.” “All power — judicial power being no exception — is held accountable in a modern Constitution,” the judgement had concluded. It was observed that a judge whose decisions were capable of impacting people’s lives, property, liberties and individual freedoms, and who is assigned with the responsibility to interpret duties and limitations placed upon State and non-State agencies, is under obligation to disclose his or her personal assets to someone or an authority.
A three-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court, sitting in appeal, had upheld the Single Judge Bench’s conclusions.
Consequently, the Supreme Court’s Central Public Information officer had moved the apex court, contending that disclosure of its judges’ “personal details” under the RTI would affect their judicial independence.
A five-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi heard and reserved the appeal in April 2019.
“Nobody wants a system of opaqueness, but in the name of transparency we cannot destroy the institution of judiciary,” Chief Justice Gogoi had orally observed on the last day of hearing. The judgement is set to join the already long list of landmark, path breaking judgements to be delivered by Chief Justice Gogoi before his impending retirement.
Tags : SC, RTI, CJI