25 May 2023 3:54 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, in its judgement accepting various recommendations of the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC) on pay, pension, gratuity, age of retirement etc. of judicial officers, remarked that the functions of District judges were essentially the same as High Court judges. Hence, the increase in the salary of the High Court judges should reflect in the pay scale of...
The Supreme Court, in its judgement accepting various recommendations of the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC) on pay, pension, gratuity, age of retirement etc. of judicial officers, remarked that the functions of District judges were essentially the same as High Court judges. Hence, the increase in the salary of the High Court judges should reflect in the pay scale of district judges in the same proportion.
The judgement also stated that judges were not employees of the State but holders of public office who wielded sovereign judicial power. Thus, judges were only comparable to members of the legislature and ministers in the executive and their pay could not be equated to executive staff. The court also provided a timeline for the Center and the States to pay retired judicial officers pension as per the enhanced pay scale.
Highlighting the importance of the District Judiciary, the Supreme Court also stated–
"No longer should this Court refer to the District Judiciary as ‘subordinate judiciary. Not only is this a misnomer because the District Judge is not per se subordinate to any other person in the exercise of her jurisdiction but also is disrespectful to the constitutional position of a District Judge."
In this context, the judgement added that the functions of a District judge were essentially the same as that of a High Court judge. The judgment quotes the observations made in its earlier order passed in April 2021 which dismissed review petitions against the directions for enhanced pension scale- "all Judges across the hierarchy of courts discharge the same essential function of adjudicating disputes impartially and independently"
Thus, given that in the hierarchy of the unified judicial system a Judge of the High Court is placed above a District Judge, as per the judgement, it was only fair that a District Judge could not have more pay more than a High Court judge. However, it adds, that any increase in the salary of the judges of the High Court must reflect in the same proportion to the judges in the District Judiciary.
The judgement also highlights that –
"It must be remembered the judges are not employees of the State but are holders of public office who wield sovereign judicial power. In that sense, they are only comparable to members of the legislature and ministers in the executive."
Accordingly, it cannot be argued that the emoluments of judicial officers must be at par with the staff of the legislative and executive wing. Parity cannot be claimed between staff of the legislative wing and executive wing with officers of the judicial wing. Thus, there cannot be any objection that judicial officers receive pay which is not at par with executive staff. It adds–
"This distinction is also important because judicial independence from the executive and the legislature requires the judiciary to have a say in matters of their finances."
The same is because if the Executive got to decide the pay of the judiciary, the independence of the judiciary may suffer.
"Without impartial and independent judges in the District Judiciary, Justice, a preambular goal, would remain illusory. The District Judiciary is, in most cases, also the Court which is most accessible to the litigant," states the judgement.
Other reports on the judgment can be read here.
Case Title: All India Judges Association v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 643/2015
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 452
Click Here To Read/Download Judgement