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India Supreme Court judges to disclose assets online

[JURIST] Judges of the India Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday decided to disclose their assets and make them available on the court's website. The decision, lauded by Indian political parties [Hindu report], legal authorities, and newspapers [Hindu editorial] as a victory for accountability and transparency, was delivered by the 23 judges of the high court. The judicial watchdog group Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform [advocacy website] called the decision [press release] a good first step, but cautioned that it

does not obviate the need for a law to make such public declarations compulsory. Indeed, the law must provide for an annual public declaration of assets and liabilities as well as income tax returns of all public servants, including judges. It is only when people can compare the assets of public servants with their legal sources of income, that one can catch public servants who have acquired assets disproportionate to their legal income.

While the decision has been seen as a victory, it is not readily apparent when the disclosure will occur, nor what specific information [Hindu report] will be made public.

A number of nations around the world have laws requiring public officials to disclose their assets. In India, the All India Services Rules [text], passed in 1968, require only that officials submit an inventory of their assets, not that it be made public. In 2003, Kenya passed the Public Officer Ethics Act [text, PDF], mandating a yearly disclosure of assets. Brazilian law 8249 [text, in Portuguese], passed in 1992, mandates a similar disclosure, with a penalty of removal from office for failing to do so. In the US, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 says that failure to disclose will not result in termination, but could result in a civil suit.

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