New Delhi: The 26 judges of the Supreme Court (SC) will together discuss and decide whether the Delhi high court’s judgment, that the office of the chief justice of India (CJI) falls within the ambit of the RTI Act, should be challenged.
The verdict can be challenged only in SC. The apex court is already seized of another own appeal against a central information commission (CIC) order that the CJI disclose the contents of a letter by Madras high court judge R Reghupathy complaining that a Union minister tried to influence him to grant bail to an accused.
An SC bench has stayed the CIC order. CJI KG Balakrishnan told reporters on Wednesday, “I have not read the [HC] judgment. I have only read your valuable reports.”
In response to a query whether the SC registry would challenge the HC ruling, the CJI, who briefly interacted with the media at a function to bid farewell to justice Tarun Chatterjee, who retired on Wednesday, said, “It would be decided by a full court.”
He stressed that even the last time (when the CIC passed the order in September 2008) “the full court had decided to go in [for] an appeal” against the September 2, 2009, judgment by HC judge S Ravindra Bhat that upheld the CIC order regarding disclosure of assets by judges.
While ruling that the CJI was not immune to the RTI Act, Delhi high court judges Ajit Prakash Shah, S Muralidhar and Vikramjit Sen had recalled prime minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in parliament.
“The legislation [RTI Act] would ensure that the benefits of growth would flow to all sections of people, eliminate corruption and bring the concerns of the common man to the heart of all the processes
of governance,” PM had said.
To deviate from such standards of honesty and impartiality is to betray the trust reposed in him [CJI], the HC judges said. No excuse or legal relativity can condone such betrayal. From the standpoint of justice, the size of the bribe or scope of corruption cannot be the scale for measuring a judge’s dishonour, they said.
“A single dishonest judge not only dishonours himself and disgraces his office but also jeopardises the integrity of the entire judicial system,” HC said.
“A judicial scandal has always been regarded as far more deplorable than a scandal involving either the executive or a member of the legislature. The slightest hint of irregularity or impropriety in court is a cause for great anxiety and alarm. A legislator or an administrator may be found guilty of corruption without apparently endangering the foundation of the state. But a judge must keep himself absolutely above suspicion to preserve the impartiality and independence of the judiciary and to have the public confidence,” the bench said while allowing SC secretary general to appeal against its verdict before the top court.