6 April 2023 12:38 PM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, upheld its order dated 27th July, 2022 directing for implementation of the enhanced pay scale for judicial officers as per the recommendation of the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC). By the said order, it had also directed the Centre and State Governments to pay the arrears to the officers in 3 instalments - 25% in 3 months, another 25% in next...
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, upheld its order dated 27th July, 2022 directing for implementation of the enhanced pay scale for judicial officers as per the recommendation of the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC). By the said order, it had also directed the Centre and State Governments to pay the arrears to the officers in 3 instalments - 25% in 3 months, another 25% in next 3 months and balance by 30th June, 2023.
In review petitions filed by the Centre and some State Governments, a Bench comprising CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli noted that there is no error apparent on the face of the record and affirmed the direction issued in its order dated 27th July, 2022.
In its order dated 27th July, 2022, while considering a plea filed by the All India Judges Association for constitution of All India Judicial Commission to review service conditions in the district judiciary, the Apex Court had observed that it was necessary to revise the payment structure for judicial officers at the earliest as they are not covered by the Pay Commission constituted by the States and the Centre.
The review was filed by the Union Government on the ground that the objections raised by it in the main petition with respect to the applicability of the recommendations of the SNJPC were not duly considered by the Apex Court.
It is pertinent to note that the Second National Judicial Pay Commission was constituted by the Apex Court in 2017 for reviewing the pay scale and other conditions of Judicial Officers belonging to the subordinate judiciary all over the country. A Bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Abdul Nazeer had appointed former Supreme Court Judge Justice PV Reddy as commission Chairman and former Kerala High Court Judge and Senior Supreme Court lawyer R. Basant as member.
The Union Government had objected to the SNJPC applying a uniform Index of Rationalisation of 2.81 (highest IOR as per 7th Central Pay Commission applicable to the level of Secretary to Govt of India) for all the levels in the hierarchy of the Judicial Officers instead of applying progressively higher IOR to different levels. It had pointed out that the nature of responsibilities discharged by the Judicial Officers were not same at all the levels and thus the application of uniform IOR is not appropriate. It had also objected to the analogy drawn from the IOR of 2.81 allowed for High Court Judges contending that High Court Judge has a fixed pay scale as opposed to a span-based scale. Moreover, the duties and responsibilities of the judicial officers are no match to that discharged by the High Court judges.
It had suggested -
“...the pay matrix based on the uniform multiplication factor of 2.81 for all three levels as recommended by the SNJPC needs to be rationalized and graded. It is suggested that the pay matrix based on IOR of 2.67 and 2.72 may be worked out on the scientific principle followed by the 7th Pay Commission.”
The State Governments of Haryana, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh also sought for a review of the order of the Apex Court dated 27th July, 2022, inter alia, raising objection to the uniform multiplier of 2.81 (same multiplier applied to judges of Supreme Court and High Courts) recommended by the SNJPC. The State of Manipur categorically submitted that if the order is not reviewed that it would amount to equating higher district judiciary with constitutional courts. The States emphasised that the Court ought to have considered the aspect of rationalisation and progressive upgradation. The State of Haryana, inter alia, submitted that as per the recommendations of the Shetty Commission initial pay of the civil judges is 12.5% higher than IAS officers, but the SNJPC recommendations makes it almost double that of IAS officers. It also submitted that the implementation of the order dated 27th July, 2022 would substantially burden the State exchequer. Among other things, the State of Uttar Pradesh claimed that the implementation of the recommendation of the SNJPC would increase salary of judicial officers disproportionately and compel State Governments and the Centre to face such demand in the future to apply the same multiplier for revising salary of Government employees.
The Apex Court noted that the SNJPC had considered all the factors governing the service of judicial officials including their roles and responsibilities to arrive at the multiplier of 2.81. It quoted the rationale for adopting the said multiplier, which reads as under -
“12.2 The first and foremost principle to be kept in view is the extent of rise in the salary of High Court Judge w.e.f. 01.01.2016 i.e., after the report of VII CPC which fixed the pay of Secretary to Government of India at Rs.2,25,000/. As was done in the past, the same fixed pay has been adopted for the High court Judges. The extent of increase in relation to the previous pay was 2.81 times (Rs.80,000/- to Rs.2,25,000/-). Earlier, the increase was 3.07 times (Rs.26,000/- to Rs.80,000/-) w.e.f. 01.01.2006. JPC took this as the basis for evolving Master Pay Scale. For instance, the starting pay of Civil Judge (Jr. Div.) as per the FNJPC was Rs.9,000/-. The same was multiplied by 3.07 and the revised starting pay was arrived at as Rs.27700/-. The index 3.07 represents the extent of pay rise of High Court Judges from 01.01.2006. The increments were also multiplied by 3.07. It resulted in substantial increase in the pay of Civil Judges (Jr. & Sr. Div). The JPC had ensured that the Mean Pay Percentages spelt out by FNJPC keeping in view the then existing pay of High Court Judges at Rs.26,000/- remained intact. The said percentages were 45.3% for Civil Judge (Jr. Div.), 58.5% for Civil Judge (Sr. Div.), 71.6% for District Judge (Entry Level), 80% for District Judge (SG) and 91.7% for District Judge (STS) of the salary of High Court Judge. As noted earlier, FNJPC laid down in para 15.50 that – “In case the salary of High Court Judges is revised upwards at any time, the pay scales of Judicial Officers in all these cadres have to be suitably revised upwards by maintaining the said ratios.” The ratios were 45.3%, 58.5%, 71.6%, 80% and 91.7% - (not to speak of ACP percentages).”
No need to reduce the gap between entry level IAS officers and judicial officers
The Court opined that there was no pressing need to reduce the quantum of multiplier adopted by the SNJPC so as to marginally reduce the gap between entry level IAS officers (in Junior and Senior time scales) and Judicial Officers (Civil Judge, Junior and Senior Divisions) for the following reasons -
Argument that uniform IoR would equate the district courts with constitutional courts is erroneous; all Judges across the hierarchy of courts discharge the same essential function
The Apex Court clarified that the uniform multiplier indicates uniform increment in pay and not uniform pay at all levels. Refusing to accept suggestions regarding application of graded IOR, it emphasised, ‘all Judges across the hierarchy of courts discharge the same essential function of adjudicating disputes impartially and independently’. Commenting on the role of district judiciary in preserving rule of law and the need to ensure adequate emoluments and pension for it, the Apex Court stated -
“The District Courts and courts forming a part of the district judiciary discharge a prominent role in preserving the rule of law. Public confidence in the judicial system sustains the credibility of the judiciary. The district judiciary has a significant role in generating and fostering public confidence. The standards of ethics and professionalism expected of judges are more rigorous than those applied to other services/professions. Ensuring adequate emoluments, pension and proper working conditions for the members of the district judiciary has an important bearing on the efficiency of judicial administration and the effective discharge of the unique role assigned to the judiciary.”
The Apex Court also pointed out that, while the Government officers have the benefit of the 7th Central Pay Commission scales since 2016, even after seven years, the judicial officers are still awaiting a revision. In this regard, it noted, “Lost time impinges on the nature of their working conditions and ultimately on the quality of life itself. Any reduction in the multiplier will be without principled justification.”
At the end it added that as held by the Apex Court in All India Judges Association v. Union of India (II) (1993) 4 SCC 288, additional financial burden cannot be a ground for review.
The All India Judges Association was represented by Senior Advocate, Mr. Gourab Banerji, Advocate on Record, Ms. Mayuri Raghuvanshi and Advocate, Mr. Vyom Raghuvanshi.
Union of India v. All India Judges Association| 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 273
Judicial Service - Supreme Court dismisses petitions filed by Union of India and some states to review the order for implementation of the enhanced pay scale for judicial officers as per the recommendation of the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC)-Argument that uniform IoR would equate the district courts with constitutional courts is erroneous; all Judges across the hierarchy of courts discharge the same essential function-The standards of ethics and professionalism expected of judges are more rigorous than those applied to other services/professions. Ensuring adequate emoluments, pension and proper working conditions for the members of the district judiciary has an important bearing on the efficiency of judicial administration and the effective discharge of the unique role assigned to the judiciary - Para 14, 15
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