Thu, 25 Apr 2019

New Delhi [India], Mar 20 (ANI): Only seven sitting judges of the Supreme Court of India, out of a current strength of 27 judges, have disclosed their assets on the apex court's official website.

Apart from Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, those who have declared their assets and liabilities include Justice S A Bobde, Justice N V Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice R Banumathi, Justice A M Khanwilkar, and Justice Ashok Bhushan.

The decision of the judges to declare their assets public is voluntary, and in keeping with the judiciary's push for higher transparency in its functioning.

As per the website, Chief Justice Gogoi updated his assets on June 6, 2018, in which he disclosed the sale of land held by him in Guwahati for Rs 65 lakh and one per cent tax deducted on it along with the transfer of ancestral land gifted to him and his spouse by his mother.

The Chief Justice of India and his wife don't own any vehicle nor has any loan or liabilities.

The second senior-most judge of the top court, Justice Bobde has two inherited properties in Nagpur and half share in a flat in Mumbai. He too does not own any vehicle.

Justice N V Ramana and his wife have various properties. The top court judge has a loan of Rs 30 lakh. The third senior-most judge of the apex court had updated the information of his assets on the website in March 2018.

As per the website, Justice Arun Mishra, the fourth senior most judge of the apex court, has two plots and share in one ancestral house in Gwalior apart from a flat in Noida, the possession of which is yet to be obtained.

Justice A M Khanwilkar owns a house in New Delhi and one property in Mumbai jointly with his wife. Justice Khanwilkar has some deposits and a housing loan, as per the information on the website states.

Justice Ashok Bhushan has few properties including agriculture lands in Allahabad. As per records, Justice Bhushan and his wife don't own any vehicle.

Justice Banumathi owns three properties in Tamil Nadu for which she has declared detailed account of how the money for purchasing them came from.

The exercise of declaring assets started when on May 7, 1997, the Supreme Court adopted in a Full Court Resolution that all judges must declare their assets, including that of their spouse and dependents within a reasonable time of assuming office.

The Full Court Resolution of 1997 resolved that every judge should make a declaration and disclose of all his/her assets in the form of real estate or investments (held by the judge in own name, spouse's name or dependent family member) in a reasonable time.

"The declaration so made shall be to the Chief Justice of this Court. The Chief Justice should make a similar declaration for the purpose of the record. The declaration made by the Judges or the Chief Justice, as the case may be, shall be confidential," the 1997 Resolution had stated.

Later in November 2007, an Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal filed an RTI in the Supreme Court seeking information on judges' assets but the information was denied.

Aggarwal then approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) which asked the apex court to disclose information on the ground that Chief Justice of India's office comes within the ambit of Act.

In January 2009, the top court had moved the Delhi High Court against CIC order contending that declaration of assets by its judges to the Chief Justice of India is "personal information" which cannot be revealed under the RTI act and "too much transparency can affect the independence of the judiciary".

Single Bench of High Court on September 2, 2009, had upheld CIC's order and said Chief Justice of India's office comes within the ambit of RTI act and judges' assets be made public under the RTI Act.

Meanwhile, in another full court meeting, the top court passed a resolution to declare their assets "voluntarily" in public by publishing it in the official website.

The top court thereafter also challenged the single judge order before a division bench and the High Court decided to constitute a special three-judge bench to decide the issue.

The three-judge bench in November 2009 had observed that the resolution passed by the Supreme Court judges in 1997 for declaring their assets to Chief Justice of India was binding on them and in January 2010 it held that the office of CJI comes within the ambit of the RTI Act.

The apex court then filed the appeal against the three-judge bench of the High Court in the top court which has been pending in the Supreme Court since 2010. (ANI)

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