National Judicial Pay Commission

Supreme Court: In a writ petition concerning the allowances which have been granted to judicial officers and retired judicial officers by the Second National Judicial Pay Commission (‘SNJPC’), the three-Judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, CJI, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, JJ. While accepting the recommendations of SNJPC, directed the constitution of a ‘Committee for Service Conditions of the District Judiciary’ in each High Court for overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the SNJPC. Further, it directed that the disbursements on account of arrears of salary, pension and allowances due and payable to judicial officers, retired judicial officers and family pensioners shall be computed and paid on or before 29-02-2024.

The Court said that by its orders. dated 27-07-2022, 5-04-2023 and 19-05-2023, the Court had accepted the recommendations of the SNJPC , chaired by Justice P V Reddy, former Judge of this Court on the revision of pay and pension for judicial officers.

The Court noted that except for three allowances, where there was a modification, the allowances recommended by the First NJPC (Shetty Commission) were affirmed by this Court in All India Judges’ Assn. v. Union of India, (2002) 4 SCC 247. Thereafter, all allowances which were recommended by the subsequent pay commission, called the Justice Padmanabhan Committee were accepted by this Court in All India Judges Association v. Union of India, (2010) 14 SCC 720

The Court noted that among the allowances which have been recommended by the SNJPC, two new allowances are proposed while two additional components are introduced to an additional allowance, namely: Children Education Allowance; A Furniture and Air conditioner allowance and maintenance as a part of the House Rent Allowance; and Risk Allowance. The SNJPC has recommended that the City Compensatory Allowance should be discontinued. In respect of the Robe Allowance, the SNJPC recommended that such a demand would not be entertained by the next JPC.

The States, Union Territories and Union Government submitted that the revision of rates or, as the case may be, the new allowances will result in an increased financial burden and expenditure; the rules governing the payment of allowances prescribed by each State for their own administrative establishment must be followed; and the benefits which are provided to judicial officers must be equivalent to those provided to other Government officers.

The Court said that the State is duty bound to ensure that the conditions of service, both during the tenure of office and after retirement, are commensurate with the need to maintain dignified working conditions for serving judicial officers and in the post-retirement emoluments made available to former members of the judicial service.

It added that the State is under an affirmative obligation to ensure dignified conditions of work for its judicial officers, and it cannot raise the defense of an increase in financial burden or expenditure.

The Bench said that the allowances which have been provided by the SNJPC are basic allowances, most of which rank on the same scale as what has been made available to officers discharging executive functions in the All-India Services. While expressing concern, the Court said that though officers in the other services have availed of a revision of their conditions of service as far back as 01-01-2016, similar issues pertaining to judicial officers are still awaiting a final decision eight years thereafter. Judges have retired from service. The family pensioners of those who have passed away are awaiting resolution as well.

Concerning the second argument of the Government, the Court reiterated that that there is a need to maintain uniformity in the service conditions of judicial officers across the country. Thus, the plea that rules of each State must govern pay and allowances, lacks substance.

Further, while rejecting the plea of equivalence between the judicial officers and other Government officers, the Court said that it would be inappropriate to equate judicial service with the service of other officers of the State. The functions, duties, restrictions and restraints operating during and after service are distinct for judicial service members.

The Bench discussed each of the allowances as recommended by the SNJPC, and approved the following:

  1. House Building Advance

  2. Children Education Allowance

  3. City Compensatory Allowance

  4. Concurrent Charges Allowance

  5. Conveyance/Transport Allowance

  6. Dearness Allowance

  7. Earned Leave Encashment

  8. Electricity and Water Charges

  9. Higher Qualification Allowance, clarifying that the advance increments for acquiring higher qualifications shall also be made available to officers who have acquired their degrees through distance learning programmes.

  10. Hill Area/Tough Location Allowance, directed all High Courts to specify the areas classifiable as hill areas/tough locations within a period of two months.

  11. Home Orderly/Domestic Help Allowance

  12. House Rent Allowance and Residential Quarters

  13. Leave Travel Concession/Home Travel Concession

  14. Medical Allowance/Medical Facilities

  15. Newspaper and Magazine Allowances

  16. Risk Allowance

  17. Robe Allowance

  18. Special Pay for Administrative Work

  19. Sumptuary Allowance

  20. Telephone Facility

  21. Transfer Grant

The Court viewed that a framework has to be set up under the auspices of every High Court for institutionalizing the implementation of the orders of this Court with respect to the service conditions of the district judiciary and for implementing the recommendations of the SNJPC.

Thus, the Court directed for the constitution of a ‘Committee for Service Conditions of the District Judiciary’ in each High Court for overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the SNJPC. Further, it provided the following composition of the Committee:

  • Two Judges of the High Court to be nominated by the Chief Justice of which one should be a Judge who has previously served as a member of the district judiciary;

  • The Law Secretary/Legal Remembrancer;

  • The Registrar General of the High Court who shall serve as an ex officio Secretary of the Committee; and

  • A retired judicial officer in the cadre of District Judge to be nominated by the Chief Justice who shall act as a nodal officer for the day-to-day redressal of grievances

The Court said that the senior Judge nominated by the Chief Justice shall be the Chairperson of the Committee. The Chairperson may co-opt officers of the State Government, including the Secretaries in the Departments of Home, Finance, Health, Personnel and Public Works, when issues concerning these departments are being deliberated upon and implemented. The Chairperson of the Committee may at their discretion co-opt the Accountant General to ensure due implementation of the recommendations of the SNJPC. The Committee would be at liberty to consult with the representatives of the Judges’ Association or, the Retired Judges’ Association in the State.

The Court laid down the principal functions of the Committee. Further, it directed the Committee to formulate a Standard Operating Procedure (‘SOP’) with specified timelines for claims and disbursal of allowances including the payment of arrears of salary and pension to judicial officers, pensioners and family pensioners. Further, it added that the SOP shall, inter alia, cover the following:

(a) The nodal agency for disbursement of allowances, arrears and other service and retiral benefits;

(b) Laying down a simplified and effective procedure for reimbursement and disbursement of claims;

(c) Providing contact details of the nodal agency at the district or State level;

(d) Publication of the SOP on the website of the High Court, together with the details of the nodal officer; and

(e) Maintenance of a database of retired Judges and family pensioners in the district judiciary with a process for periodical updating, at least on a quarterly basis

The Court further directed that the CSCDJs institutionalized in terms of the directions issued earlier to monitor compliance. Each Committee working under the auspices of the High Court was directed to submit its report to the Court on or before 7-04-2024 through the Registrar General of the High Court.

[All India Judges Association v Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 27, decided on 04-01-2024]

*Judgment Authored by: Chief Justice of India Dr. DY Chandrachud

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