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In a major development, the Supreme Court has constituted a two-member Commission to examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of judges of subordinate judiciary. The Commission will he headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice P Venkatarama Reddy and will comprise Senior Advocate and former Kerala High Court judge R Basant as its member.
The order to that effect was passed by Justices Jasti Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer in a 2015 petition filed by All India Judges Association.
The power to fix the pay scale and emoluments for subordinate judiciary lies with State governments, which do the same in consultation with the concerned High Court. The Supreme Court had long back constituted Justice Shetty Commission which had made ad-hoc suggestions regarding pay structure of subordinate judiciary.
Bar & Bench had reported on March 6 about the inclination expressed by the Bench to set up a commission similar to Shetty Commission to review the pay scale and emoluments for subordinate judiciary. On March 8, all the parties to the petition had agreed for the appointment of such a Commission. The Central government had agreed to submit draft terms of reference for the guidance of the Commission.
When the matter was taken up on May 9, the following terms of reference filed by the Centre were agreed upon by the parties:
1. To evolve the principles which should govern the structure of pay and other emoluments of Judicial Officers belonging to the sub-ordinate judiciary all over the country.
2. To examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of Judicial Officers in the states and UT’s taking into account the total packet of benefits available to them and make suitable recommendations including post retirement benefits such as pension etc. having regard among other relevant factors, to the existing relativities in the pay structure between the officers belonging to sub-ordinate judicial services vis-a-vis other civil servant and mechanism for redressal of grievances in this regard.
3. To examine the work methods and work environment as also the variety of allowance and benefits in kind that are available in Judicial Officers in addition to pay and to suggest rationalization and simplification thereof with a view to promoting efficiency in Judicial Administration, optimizing the size of judiciary etc. and to remove anomalies created in implementation of earlier recommendations.
4. To consider and recommend such interim relief as it considers just and proper to all categories of Judicial Officers of all the 5 States/Union Territories. The interim relief, if recommended, shall have to be fully adjusted against and included in the package which may become admissible to the Judicial Officers on the final recommendations of the Commission.
5. To recommend the mechanism for setting up of a permanent mechanism to review the pay and service conditions of members of sub-ordinate judiciary periodically by an independent commission exclusively constituted for the purpose and the composition of such commission should reflect adequate representation on behalf of the judiciary.
The Commission will make its recommendations as soon as feasible. It may consider, if necessary, sending reports on any of the matters as and when the recommendations are finalized. It shall make its recommendations to the State Governments.
The Commission will devise its own procedure and may appoint such 6 advisers, institutional consultants and experts as it may consider necessary for any particular purpose. It may call for such information and take such evidence as it may consider necessary. All State Governments, UT Administrations and the Ministries/Departments of the Central Government will furnish such information, documents and other assistance as required by the Commission.”
The Court recorded the same in its order and proceeded to constitute the Commission.
“…we deem it appropriate to appoint a Commission to be headed by Mr. Justice P. Venkatarama Reddy, a former Judge of this Court, who would act as a Chairman of the Commission, and Mr. R. Basant, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court and a Senior Advocate of this Court, to be the Member of the Commission. The Commission would be assisted by a Member Secretary who would be chosen by the Commission, preferably a Judicial Officer either in service or retired.”
The Chairman of the Commission will be entitled to salary and other allowances payable to a sitting Supreme Court judge while the member would be entitled to draw the salary and the other monetary allowances payable to a sitting judge of a High Court. The Court also directed the Central government to provide the services of one of the Additional Solicitor Generals to the Commission.
The Commission has to submit a report to the court preferably within 18 months.
Read the order below.
Image of Justice P Venkatrama Reddy taken from here.