Kathmandu, March 17

Lawyers demanded amendment to the Judicial Council Act to make it mandatory for judges to declare their assets and liabilities.

Advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh said he went to file a public interest litigation on Thursday seeking public disclosure of judges’ assets, but the Supreme Court administration told him to first file a petition at the Judicial Council.

Singh wants to challenge section 29 (3) of the Judicial Council Act, 2017 which stipulates that information related to judges’ property details will be kept confidential. He said he would go to the JC tomorrow to file a petition and if that did not address the problem then he would file a PIL at the SC. Singh said public disclosure of judges’ property would ensure transparency and increase people’s faith in the judiciary.

Senior Advocate Purna Man Shakya said, “Judges cannot protect citizens’ rights if they are kept at the mercy of the executive and the legislature, but this does not mean they should not disclose their property details,” he said. Shakya said judges should declare their assets at the time of joining and leaving service. He said there should be mandatory provision for disclosure of judges’ property.

Advocate Tikaram Bhattarai said the JC Act’s provision keeping judges’ property details confidential was flawed. He said prohibition on disclosure of property details was against the provision of right to information.

Chief Executive Officer of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said all public post holders, including judges, should disclose their property details. “Some say disclosing judges’ property details could increase security threat for them but that is a wrong argument,” he added. Dahal said all public post holders including lawmakers, ministers, government employees and judges should be required to make their property details public.

Senior Advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali, however, said public disclosure of judges’ assets would violate their right to privacy. “The JC should probe if any judge has disproportionate assets. The public should know the property details of judges only after cases are filed against them,” he added. Singh, however, said public post holders could not claim right to privacy in matters related to property. “Can the PM, ministers or government employees not disclose their property details citing right to privacy? If other public post holders disclose their property details, why shouldn’t judges do the same?” he wondered. He said the public should know how much property judges owned.