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Judges volunteer to disclose assets

The higher echelons of the judiciary voluntarily agreed to disclose their assets after a full court room meeting of Supreme Court judges yesterday. The move will allow the public to view the movable and immovable property of judges and dependants on the official website of the Supreme Court.

Advocate and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi told Legally India: "I'm not speaking as a spokesperson, but personally I welcome this move, although belated.

"The judiciary has risen to the occasion and removed all unnecessary misgivings. There cannot be a regime of disclosure without access. I’m happy that the stage is now set for a belated conclusion of an unsavory and unnecessary controversy."

In a historic first, the move may finally lay to rest the controversy that surrounded the issue since the tabling of the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill, 2009, in Rajya Sabha.

The Bill proposed that Supreme Court and High Court judges would declare their assets to their respective chief justices. It was envisaged that the High Court Chief Justice would report to the Chief Justice of India, who would in turn report to the President of India.

Intended to introduce financial accountability into the higher judiciary, the original proposal from the judges was marred by a rider that banned enquiries about their assets. This was claimed to prevent any malicious litigation directed towards members of the judiciary but ultimately caused the Bill to be shelved.

The public fallout over this issue between the Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan and the Karnataka HC Judge Kumar could have been a direct cause on the unexpected resolution of the matter.

Earlier this week the Chief Justice had called Justice DV Shylendra Kumar "publicity crazy" after the Karnataka High Court judge questioned the Chief Justice's right to oppose judges' declaration of assets.

Punjab and Haryana High Court judge M.K. Kannan followed by posting details of his personal wealth on a website.

A day later, Madras High Court judge K. Chandru said that he was willing to reveal details of his assets.

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