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Reporter’s Diary is a series that brings you interesting snippets from court hearings across the country. It attempts to offer our readers a glimpse into casual interactions between judges and lawyers appearing in cases.
The hearings in the Aadhaar case before the Supreme Court are drawing to a close, with the Constitution Bench expected to reserve its judgment next week.
Amidst the heated arguments made by both sides, a few moments that lightened the atmosphere in the courtroom come to mind.
Take for instance, the frequent references – by both the Bench and the counsel representing the parties – to the recent landmark Right to Privacy judgment of a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court. It was often argued that mandatory enrolment under the Aadhaar scheme would impinge upon the Right to Privacy.
During one such submission by Senior Counsel Gopal Subramanium, Justice AK Sikri, who is one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench, drew the attention of the counsel to the declaration of assets by judges of the Supreme Court on its website.
Although such declaration is voluntary, keeping in view the privacy of the judges, what Justice Sikri said with regard to why some judges are reluctant to declare their assets prompted peals of laughter in the courtroom.
Some judges are hesitant to do so, he suggested, because such declaration would make the public compare one judge with another. He observed,
“The judge who does not have much to declare in terms of assets would be embarrassed that his poor status is no longer a secret!”
Currently, only fourteen of the twenty-four sitting judges have declared their assets on the website. Those who have chosen not to declare their assets include Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, Uday Umesh Lalit, L Nageswara Rao, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, Abhay Manohar Sapre, DY Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer, Navin Sinha and Deepak Gupta.
Of the ten judges who have not disclosed their assets, three of them – Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice UU Lalit and Justice L Nageswara Rao – were directly elevated from the Bar. These three judges were Senior Advocates at Supreme Court with lucrative law practice before they became Supreme Court judges.