New Delhi: Political parties and legal experts on Thursday welcomed the decision by Supreme Court judges to make public their assets, describing it as a “step in the right direction” that could have come “earlier” to avoid needless controversy.
After months of intense debate over making public the details of assets of higher judiciary, a decision “in principle” was taken on the issue at a meeting convened by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on Wednesday.
Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily called the move a welcome one and said that the judges should decide how it should be implemented since they know their interests best.
He said it was “not that the judges were unwilling” to disclose assets but “there are certain things for judges... they are not elected people... as a government we do not want them to be embarrassed or inconvenienced. If they have come forward themselves to disclose it, it is welcome.”
Spokespersons of BJP and Congress, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Abhishek Singhvi, respectively, also hailed the move. Singhvi, who maintained that he was airing his “personal opinion”, said “it is a very good and welcome step”.
The judiciary has avoided “further needless controversy”, but it could have been avoided if the decision was taken earlier, he said. “It is a question of public perception and public confidence, and in that light it is a step in the right direction,“ Singhvi said.
Prasad also called the move a “welcome” one but added that he had a “humble request” to make to “my lords”—“please don’t speak in public, don’t write articles, including the retired judges. That restraint is equally important.”
Former Attorney General and constitutional expert Soli Sorabjee said “it is a very good decision taken by judges”.
“I think it is a very good development. It’s better late than never,” Sorabjee said adding the judges have heeded to the views of former Chief Justices and senior advocates who were also very keen to maintain the image of the judiciary.
“I am sure their initial reluctance not to declare assets was not because they had anything to hide. They had misgivings that it may be misused,” he said.
“The whole controversy had become very unsavoury with this kind of suggestions that judges have something to hide—they want to be above the law. I am so happy that the Supreme Court has risen to the occasion,” senior lawyer Harish Salve said.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had launched a campaign on the issue, said it would also now encourage the judges of the High Courts to make public their assets.
“It is absolutely a welcome move and I am sure it will also encourage the judges of the High Courts to publicly declare their assets and force the government to put up assets of government servants on public website which can be accessed by the people,” Bhushan said.
Senior advocate KK Venugopal termed the decision as “excellent”. “I think it is the greatest step that the judiciary could take because it has cleared all the clouds which have been hanging over the issue,” he said.
Sorabjee said the decision will raise the stature of the judiciary in public eye and reinforce the confidence of the litigants in the supreme judiciary.