[JURIST] Judges of the Supreme Court of India [official website] on Monday voluntarily made public disclosures of their financial assets [list]. The assets of 21 of the current judges have been posted on the official court website in an effort to increase judicial transparency. This voluntary listing of assets comes after months of harsh criticisms from the legal community and the public concerning judicial accountability. While the move has been lauded as a step in the right direction, Transparency International [advocacy website] has questioned the benefit of disclosure when there is no way to confirm that it is entirely accurate, given the announcement that the judges will not entertain any queries or scrutiny [CJAR press release, PDF] of assets listed. The decision [JURIST report] to go public with the listing of assets was based on a consensus among the judges as there is no current law that requires them to do so.
A number of nations around the world have laws requiring public officials to disclose their assets. In India, the All India Services Rules [text, PDF], 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 [text] says that failure to disclose will not result in termination, but could result in a civil suit.