Judicial Officers' Pension : Supreme Court Summons Chief Secretaries Of Defaulting States To Show-Cause For Not Initiating Contempt Action
The Supreme Court on Tuesday took serious exception to certain states not complying with its earlier directions regarding enhancement of the pension of retired judicial officers.
Noting that the States of Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Mizoram and Uttar Pradesh have defaulted on depositing the pension arrears, a bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath ordered that the Chief Secretaries of these states should be personally present on the next date of hearing, February 28, to show-cause why contempt proceedings should not be initiated.
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, the Amicus Curiae in the matter, submitted a chart regarding the status of compliance by the respective State Governments.
Though most of the states had complied with the Court’s earlier direction in 2022, certain states did not. The Bench took exception to this.
The Court pointed out that Bihar had made a specific statement in the affidavit that they’ve already complied with the order and banks have been given the instructions to credit. Jharkhand has made no such statement, the Bench flagged.
“Your (counsel for Jharkhand) statement says that the Accountant General should do it. What has the Accountant General done after that? If there are no central pension proceedings of the SBI Bank, you should have something else, why should the retired officers be made to make an application to the Accountant General?”, the Bench asked the counsel.
Further, the Bench asked what steps the state took to follow up with the Accountant General regarding the issue.
“Is it your case that the Accountant General has not listened to you?”, the bench further queried.
Bhatnagar, relying on Karnataka’s affidavit furnished in 2020, stated that it had sanctioned the amounts for revision of pension. However, there was no clarity on actual disbursement of amounts.
“Have you filed an affidavit of compliance? We had specifically directed you to state that not only the notification to disburse is issued but that disbursement of amounts is made. Your Chief Secretary also deserves an invitation. We have granted enough of indulgences, now let the secretaries come to Delhi”, the Bench said, noting that the State had not filed a fresh affidavit to this effect.
Kerala’s affidavit stated that the disbursal of amounts would be completed by February 3. “I hope they have done it by now”, Amicus said.
“As per the Government Order, the Registrar General of High Court was instructed to disburse before that day”, the advocate appearing for Kerala said.
“The High Court is not concerned with this. Payment has to be made from the Treasury”, the Bench said, noting the state’s non-compliance.
“It’s their (pensioners’) right. It’s not a bounty. This is not something at your mercy”, Justice Gavai added.
The counsel appearing for Mizoram stated that the procedure on behalf of the State stands completed. Two out of the five pensioners’ need to appear before the Pension Disbursal Authority for them to be verified.
“Why should they appear before the Pension Disbursal Authority?”, the Bench asked.
“That era (of physical verification) has gone now. The pension has to be credited into the accounts of the officers. They are not required to knock on various doors”, the Bench observed.
“Don’t take the Court lightly now”, the Bench added.
The counsel appearing for Uttar Pradesh revealed that the amounts have not yet reached the pensioners’ bank account.
“When we have asked you to do a particular thing by a particular date, you should have done that. So UP, not complied.”, the Bench remarked.
“Needless to say, the Chief Secretaries of these (erring) states shall personally remain present on February 28th and show cause as to why action should not be taken against them for committing contempt of this Court”, the Court ordered while adjourning the matter.
In 2012, the Court directed that the existing pension of all the past pensioners who had retired after January 1, 1996, and the pensioners whose pensions were consolidated as per the Karnataka model shall be raised by 3.07 times on par with the other pensioners subject to a minimum of 50% of the revised pay scale of their respective posts.
The 'Karnataka model' has been envisaged in the Karnataka Government Order of 2004, on the pension of retired judicial officers. By order dated 08.04.2004, the Apex Court had adopted the said model -
"Learned Amicus Curiae has placed before us a Government Order dated 4th February 2004 issued by the Government of Karnataka in regard to the payment of pension to the retired Judicial Officers and suggested that the same model may be adopted by other States. We take this Government Order on record and expect that all other States may adopt the said model. The States may file their response within a period of two months."
In May 2022, the Bench directed all State Governments with its April order to enhance the pension of retired judicial officers as per the scheme elucidated in the order passed by the Apex Court, in 2012, to do so within 4 weeks.
Case Title: Case Title: All India Judges Association And Ors v. Union of India And Ors. Writ Petition (C) No. 1022 of 1989