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Parliamentary panel recommends bringing in law for mandatory disclosure of assets by SC, HC judges

5 cops acquitted after 37 yrs in an illegal levy case in Bihar’s Bhagalpur. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Aug 8 : A Parliamentary Committee has recently recommended bringing a legislation to make it mandatory for SC and HC judges to declare their property returns on an annual basis.

The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its report ‘Judicial Processes And Their Reforms’ said that as a general practice, all constitutional functionaries and government servants must file annual returns of their assets and liabilities.

“The Supreme Court has gone to the extent of holding that the public has a right to know the assets of those standing for elections as MPs or MLAs. When so, it belies logic that judges don’t need to disclose their assets and liabilities. Anybody holding public office and drawing a salary from the exchequer should mandatorily furnish annual returns of their property,” said the Standing Committee, chaired by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi.

The Union government told the parliamentary panel that there is a need to institutionalise the mechanism for regular filing of assets and uploading them in the public domain.

The “Restatement of Values of Judicial Life” adopted by the Full Court of the Supreme Court in 1997 made it mandatory for every judge of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to make a declaration of his or her assets and liabilities at the time of appointment and thereafter in the beginning of every year.

The full bench of the Supreme Court in 2009 resolved to put the declaration of assets on the Supreme Court’s website, purely on a voluntary basis.

However, at present, the website of the Supreme Court contains data relating to declaration of assets with respect to only 55 of former Chief Justices of India and judges, which was last updated in March 2018.

Similarly, only five High Courts have data on their website related to the declaration of assets by a few judges of concerned High Courts.

“The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill” enabling declaration of assets and liabilities of judges and laying down judicial standards to be followed by judges was lapsed on dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha.

The Committee recommended the Union government to bring about appropriate legislation to make it mandatory for judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to furnish their property returns on an annual basis to the appropriate authority.

It said that declaration of assets by the judges of the higher judiciary will only bring more trust and credibility into the system.

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