ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant'

Independence of the judiciary was not meant to render it unaccountable.

It was a matter concerning the scope and applicability of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. More specifically, reference was to declarations of assets by the judges of high courts and the Supreme Court (SC). And, the litigant was the SC (its secretary-general could not have been the appellant without being instructed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI)). A ruling by a full bench of the Delhi High Court, headed by Justice A P Shah, one of the best judges in the country today, on an appeal challenging the order of a single judge, held that the Supreme Court cannot shield itself from the exemptions provided by the RTI Act, more specifically, the fiduciary relationship and privacy clauses.

The SC and the high courts are not only “public authorities” under the RTI Act, but the disclosures about their judges’ assets are essential elements of judicial accountability, including transparency. The Delhi High Court thus held that the main restraints on the disclosure of their assets that the SC judges wanted cannot be applied. Surely this will help in the struggle for judicial accountability, for if a judge fails to make an honest disclosure, someone in the know can point to significant properties not declared, or questions can be asked about whether the judge’s assets are disproportionate to his/her known sources of income over the concerned period.

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