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Subordinate judiciary approaches Supreme Court for parity with political executive

Murali Krishnan

The below average compensation for judges has been a topic of debate for some time now. And the subordinate judiciary seems to have finally woken up to it.

A petition has been filed by the All India Judges Association, a body composed of judges the subordinate judiciary across India, seeking review of the service conditions of the members of subordinate judiciary.

A three judge Bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, and Shiva Kirti Singh and Amitava Roy JJ., issued notice today to the Central government, all the States and Union Territories and to all High Courts.

Senior Advocate Gourab Banerji appeared for the petitioner along with advocate Mayuri Raghuvanshi.

Lesser pay when compared to political executive

In the petition, a copy of which is with Bar & Bench, the petitioner association has traced the history of the litigation pertaining to review of service conditions of the subordinate judiciary.

Reliance has been placed on the judgment in All India Judges’ Association and others v. Union of India, in which the Supreme Court had directed service conditions to be reviewed from time to time.

Furthermore, this review  was to be conducted by an independent commission exclusively constituted for the purpose, and the composition of this commission should reflect adequate representation on behalf of the judiciary.

The petitioner argues that though two Commissions were set up for reviewing service conditions, the direction to set up independent commissions periodically to review the pay scales of judges from time to time were not complied with. Further, the second of the two Commissions, the Padmanabhan Commission, did not consider many of the demands made by the judicial officers and pensioners since it fell outside its scope of reference.

Periodic review of service conditions of administrative officers as compared to the judicial officers has resulted in a negative gap with regard to the pay scale between the judiciary and political executive.

As per the petition,

“…the Central Government has constituted the Seventh Central Pay Commission to yet again review the pay scales and other allowances of the executive.

As a consequence the negative gap with regard to the pay scales between the Judiciary and Political Executive, who are at par, would increase. This kind of discriminative treatment amongst equals is volatile of Article 16 read with Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

Demands

The following are, inter alia, the demands made by the petitioner:

  1. Examining, reviewing, evolving and recommending changes/modification of emoluments structure including pay, conveyance allowance, residential allowance, traveling allowance and library allowance;
  2. Examining, reviewing, evolving and recommending changes to bring uniformity in the pay scales of District judges in India;
  3. Increasing the age of retirement of District judges in India;
  4. Examining, reviewing, evolving and recommending the principle and roadmap for creation of All India Judicial Services;
  5. Examining, reviewing, evolving and recommending the principle and roadmap for creation of more posts periodically to meet the increasing requirement and improve the judicial infrastructure available to the lower judiciary.
  6. Examining, evolving and recommending principles and roadmap for better promotional opportunities for Judicial officers from State Judicial Service particularly promotion in Higher Judicial Service and representation in High Court and Apex Court.

Prayer 

The petitioner has also prayed for a direction to the Central government to  ascertain the feasibility of establishing an All India Judicial Services.