Parl panel to govt: Bring law to make it mandatory for judges to disclose assets annually

New Delhi: A Parliamentary committee on Monday recommended bringing a law to make it mandatory for Supreme Court and high court judges to disclose their assets annually to an appropriate authority.

The standing committee on Law and Personnel said there is a need to institutionalise the mechanism of regular filing of assets by the judges and putting it in the public domain. It observed that such a declaration by judges of the higher judiciary will bring more trust and credibility into the system.

The committee said the last resolution of the Supreme Court on the declaration of assets by judges on a voluntary basis is not complied with.

“…the Committee recommends the government to bring about appropriate legislation to make it mandatory for judges of the higher judiciary (Supreme Court and High Courts) to furnish their property returns on an annual basis to the appropriate authority,” the committee headed by the BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi said.

“The Restatement of Values of Judicial Life” adopted by a full court meeting of the Supreme Court on May 7, 1997, lays down certain judicial standards which are to be followed by the apex court and high court judges, it said.

This resolution made it mandatory for every top court and high court judge to make a declaration of their assets and liabilities at the time of appointment and thereafter, at the beginning of every year.

Later, the full bench in its meeting on August 26, 2009, decided to disclose the statement of assets submitted by judges to the public by putting it on the Supreme Court website, the panel noted.

Again, the full court in its meeting on September 8, 2009, resolved to put the declaration of assets in the Supreme Court website on or before October 31, 2009, purely on a voluntary basis.

“Presently, the website of the Supreme Court shows that 55 judges have so far uploaded their assets and declaration with last updation done on March 31, 2018. The ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial Life’ does not have any legal authority for its enforcement,” the committee observed.