The Supreme Court on Friday said judges cannot be put under public scrutiny as it would hamper their functioning and independence.
"We cannot expose our judges to public scrutiny or inquiry because it would hamper their functioning and independence," Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati, appearing for apex court registry, contended before the Delhi High Court.
The argument was made while challenging the verdict of a single-judge bench of the high court which had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the purview of Right to Information Act and details of judges' assets should be revealed.
The AG contended other agencies should not be allowed to interfere in the judiciary.
"Judges cannot be judged by public perception. The judiciary cannot be exposed to third party. There is no problem in having better transparency and accountability in the system, but it should come from within the system," he told a full bench court of the high court headed by Chief Justice A P Shah.
The single bench of the high court had in its September 2 verdict on the controversial issue held that the CJI was a public authority and his office came within the purview of the transparency law.
The judgment was contrary to the stand taken by CJI K G Balakrishnan who had consistently been maintaining that his office is beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act.
The AG contended that the resolution passed by Judges in 1997 for declaring their assets was non-statutory, non-binding and it cannot force a judge to declare assets to the chief justice.
"Despite the fact that apex court judges have declared their assets voluntarily, the judge of the high court can refuse to provide details of his/her assets as the resolution is not binding," he said.
The court, however, was not convinced and said "the 1997 resolution was realisation of judicial accountability on the part of judiciary... I don't think that any judge would say that he does not abide by the resolution."
"I don't think that the CJI or CJ is powerless if a judge does not abide by the resolution. No judge has so far said that he would not declare assets," the chief justice said when the AG argued no action can be taken against judges for not declaring assets.
"If the resolution pertaining to judicial norms has no force, then judges can violate norms, can speculate in share market or contest election, which is not allowed," the court said.
The bench, also compromising Justices Vikramjeet Sen and S Muralidhar, had earlier pointed out that the resolution for declaring assets by the judges to the CJI was part of the broader issue of maintaining judicial values and it cannot be said to be non-binding as in-house proceedings can be initiated against a judge for violating the values.