The Supreme Court has finally decided to move the Delhi High court yet again to challenge its single-judge ruling declaring the office of the chief justice of India within the ambit of the transparency law and making it mandatory for apex court judges to disclose their assets.
Wary of being seen as sitting in judgment over its own case, the apex court has decided to adopt the normal route of contesting the high court’s single-judge bench ruling before its division bench instead of taking it up before itself at the first instance, Supreme Court registry officials said Sunday.
“Yes, we have decided to challenge the high court’s ruling before its division bench,” confirmed the apex court’s Secretary General M.P. Bhadran.
In a letter to Delhi resident Subhash Chandra Agrawal, on whose plea the Central Information Commission (CIC) earlier directed disclosure of the apex court judges’ assets, the Supreme Court’s Additional Registrar Rajpal Arora also informed him that the apex court was all set to move the high court yet again.
“An appeal against the judgment of the learned single judge (of the high court) dated Sep 2, 2009, in writ petition number 288 of 2009 has been kept ready for filing. But the appeal has not been filed since the Delhi High Court has been on vacation and the registry is closed,” Arora said in his communication to Agrawal.
“The appeal will be filed as soon as we are in a position to do so,” he said.
Refusing to elaborate why the apex court, instead of deciding the case itself, chose to move the high court yet again, Bhadran said, “Because that’s the normal course.”
The registry officials pointed out that the apex court had two options to contest the high court’s ruling.
The first option was to challenge it before a division bench of the high court and the second option was to take it up before itself (Supreme Court) through a Special Leave Petition, the officials pointed out.
The officials added that though a petitioner happens to be intrinsically entitled to go in for an appeal before a division bench of the high court against its single-judge bench ruling, he cannot move the apex court directly unless granted permission by the apex court to approach it.
Challenging the high court’s ruling directly before itself might have attracted criticism on two points – first at the time when the court’s registry would have sought the court’s permission for filing the appeal before itself and later during the hearing.
Accordingly, the apex court decided to place the matter before the high court itself.
The apex court is to challenge the high court’s ruling despite the fact that it has already conceded to disclose its judges’ assets on its official website, following the high court ruling.
But the high court ruling has also held that the office of the chief justice of India falls within the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan has gone on record contending that it does not. And that is why the apex court is to challenge that part of the high court ruling.