Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Judicial Standards Are Rising Again In India

There are very few occasions when the trust and respect for the Indian Judiciary were at its nadir. During the infamous emergency imposition by the Center such public outrage was shown. Presently as well with the corruption in judiciary, slow speed of disposal of cases and adoption of double standards by the judiciary in matters like transparency and right to information, public trust and respect for judiciary has been on the lower side once again. However, the Delhi High Court has shown a great “Judicial Courage” by upholding the values of Constitution of India, says Praveen Dalal.

In a landmark verdict against the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court today held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) law, saying judicial independence is not a judge’s privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.

The 88-page judgement is being seen as a personal setback to CJI K. G. Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A. P. Shah and Justices Vikramjeet Sen and S. Muralidhar dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court which contended that bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would “hamper” judicial independence.

“The judicial independence is not a privilege to a judge but a responsibility,” the High Court said, adding that the CJI cannot be said to have fiduciary relationship (between a trustee and a beneficiary) with other judges.

Taking a step further to bring transparency in judiciary, the bench while pronouncing the verdict in a packed courtroom, said its judges will be making their assets public within a week.

The CJI has consistently been maintaining that his office does not come within the ambit of the RTI Act and the information including the declaration of assets of its judges cannot be made public under it.