Judges of the Madras High Court will take a decision on putting their asset details on public domain after the Supreme Court comes out with its modalities on the issue, chief justice HL Gokhale has said.
When mediapersons sought to meet justice HL Gokhale on Thursday, to get his views on the chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan's statement that High Courts were free to take their decision on voluntary disclosure of assets, he expressed his inability to meet the Press.
He, however, sent a response through his secretariat that since the Supreme Court has said it would formulate some modalities in the matter, the High Court would consider and take an appropriate decision only they are finalised.
Advocate NGR Prasad, president of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the All India Lawyers Union (AILU), however, said there was no need for judges to wait for any legislations or modalities. "Constitutional functionaries should make public their wealth details on their own. So much dust and storm over the issue is wholly unwarranted. If they declare their assets it will inspire confidence among people. Such an action need not wait for a legislative backing," said Prasad.
"We welcome the judges who have declared their assets, and look forward to more such declarations. The more we tend to hide, the more we tend to become suspicious in the eyes of the public, in whose confidence alone any system, much more the judicial system, survives," Prasad said in a statement.
Assailing Clause 6 of the still-born Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill 2009, the AILU leader said it would defeat the very purpose of the legislation. The Clause provides that the declaration made by a judge to the competent authority shall not be made public or disclosed or be put into question by any citizen, court or authority and that no judge shall be subjected to any inquiry or query on the content of the declaration made.
S Prabakaran, president of the Tamil Nadu Advocates Association (TNAA), said it was an opportunity for the Madras High Court to become the first court in India to declare assets of all its judges. "The gesture will add to the dignity of the institution," he said, adding that the exercise should not be confined to the judiciary alone. "Bureaucrats in all India services like the IAS, IPS and IFS too should put their wealth details in the website of their respective departments or a specially-created all-India registry," Prabakaran said.
The visiting British minister for justice, William Stephen Goulden Bach, noting that he had no comment to make on the issue, said it would be best left to the judges themselves, as stated by the union law minister Veerappa Moily. Judges in the U.K., he said, do not declare their assets.