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The Madras High Court is in the midst of deciding on a plea preferred by the Madras High Court and Madurai Bench Officers and Staff Association after the State Government rejected a proposal to enhance the pay of High Court employees on par with the pay of Supreme Court employees earlier this year.
A representation to this effect had been preferred in 2016, following which the then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishen Kaul constituted a Staff Grievance Committee. On the basis of the report filed by the Committee, the Chief Justice had directed that the proposal for enhanced pay be forwarded to the State Government for approval.
As per the affidavit filed on behalf of the Association, some of the Court’s officers who were on the verge of retirement moved the Court for implementation of the enhanced pay structure in 2018. This plea was moved while the proposal was still pending with the Governor for approval.
However, before the plea could be decided, the State Government issued an order rejecting the proposal in January this year. The Government rejected the proposal stating that any move to enhance the pay for the judiciary would have a cascading effect on other state departments that have similarly placed officers. Further, the rejection was also justified stating that
“[In] Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, the structure is different as expenses are borne by Central Government which has more resources at its command.”
The writ petition challenging the rejection order is being heard by a Bench comprising of Justices R Subbiah and C Saravanan.
In response the Government has justified their stance, reiterating that any move made to increase the pay further for High Court employees is not feasible as it would open the flood gates for similar claims being made by similarly placed employees in other State departments.
The Government has justified its rejection of the proposal citing practical grounds, contending that the added costs involved have not been properly estimated by the High Court Registrar General while submitting the proposal. The State’s counter-affidavit states,
“… the Registrar General has stated that a sum of Rs 15, 39, 600/- per annum will be incurred for revision of pay structure for the above said posts. He has calculated the difference in pay and Grade pay alone to for arriving at the above said amount. Sanction of Dearness Allowance, House Rent Allowance, City Compensatory Allowance etc. are not shown by Registrar General, High Court in the above said amount. If the consequential allowances are included, the hike in expenditure will go a long way.”
It goes on to explain,
“The above said revision is proposed for a single post above. There are approximately 3,810 number of staff working in the High Court of Madras and its Madurai Bench in the above Saif 34 cadres. Hence, approximately a sum of Rs 15.56 crores per annum will be required, if the proposal of Registrar General, High Court of Madras is agreed to. Moreover if the revision of pay proposed by the Registrar General, High Court of Madras, is agreed to, then it will have a consequential impact on the employees working under the Government of Tamil Nadu, Statutory Boards, Government of Tamil Nadu undertakings in the State of Tamil Nadu, which will badly affect the exchequer of the Government…
… If the present proposal of the Registrar General, High Court of Madras requesting to grant the pay structure of the Delhi High Court to the employees of the Madras High Court is considered, the vertical and horizontal pay relatively of certain equivalent categories in other departments of the Government of Tamil Nadu will be affected.”
The State has also highlighted that a revised pay structure for State employees, including the employees of the Madras High Court and its Madurai Bench, has already been approved in October 2017, based on the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission and the High Level Committee constituted by it for revision of allowances.
It is further submitted that the High Court officials have been drawing the new scale of pay with notional effect from January 2016 and monetary benefit effect from October 2017. While this is the case, the Government has argued,
“… when the pay scales have been fixed on the basis of the recommendations of an expert body, This Hon’ble Court would not normally substitute its opinion for the opinion of the expert body.
With respect to the enhancement of pay scale sought for by the Association, the Government has countered that proposal was only directed to be forwarded to the State for consideration by the Chief Justice. In view of the Government’s rejection of the proposal, there is no question of the Chief Justice’s directions being violated, it is argued.
The matter has been posted to be taken up next on August 14.