SC orders constitution of committee in all HCs for implementation of judicial pay commission

Observing that there is a need to maintain uniformity in service conditions of judicial officers across the country, the Supreme Court has directed the constitution of a two-judge committee in each high court for overseeing the implementation of the orders on pay, pension and other retirement benefits for judicial officers as per the Second National Judicial Pay Commission.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said Judicial independence, which is necessary to preserve the faith and confidence of common citizens in the rule of law, can be ensured and enhanced only so long as judges are able to lead their life with a sense of financial dignity.

“The conditions of service while a judge is in service must ensure a dignified existence. The post-retirement conditions of service have a crucial bearing on the dignity and independence of the office of a judge and how it is perceived by society. If the service of the judiciary is to be a viable career option so as to attract talent, conditions of service, both for working and retired officers, must offer security and dignity,” the bench, also comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, said.

The top court said it is a matter of grave concern that though officers in other services have availed of a revision of their conditions of service as far back as January 1, 2016, similar issues pertaining to judicial officers are still awaiting a final decision eight years thereafter.

It said judges have retired from service and the family pensioners of those who have passed away are awaiting resolution as well.

The SNJPC recommendations cover pay structure, pension and family pension and allowances, besides dealing with the issue of establishing a permanent mechanism to determine subjects of service conditions of the district judiciary.

The apex court said it was of the considered view that a framework has to be set up under the auspices of every high court for institutionalising 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.

“We hereby direct the constitution of a committee in each high court for overseeing implementation of the recommendations of the SNJPC as approved by this Court. The Committee shall be called the Committee for Service Conditions of the District Judiciary’ (CSCDJ),” the bench said in an order dated January 4 which was uploaded Wednesday.

The top court said the committee shall consist of 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 and 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 senior most Judge nominated by the Chief Justice shall be the Chairperson of the Committee. The Chairperson may co-opt officers of the State Government, including secretaries in the Departments of Home, Finance, Health, Personnel and Public Works, when issues concerning these departments are being deliberated upon and implemented,” the bench said.

The top court said the Chairperson of the Committee may at their discretion co-opt Accountant General to ensure due implementation of the recommendations of SNJPC.

The Committee would be at liberty to consult with the representatives of the Judges’ Association or, as the case may be, the Retired Judges’ Association in the State, it said.

“The principal functions of CSCDJ shall be to oversee the proper implementation of the recommendations of the SNJPC, including pay, pension, allowances and all allied matters as approved by this Court by its orders.

The court said the functions of the CSCDJ would also include developing an institutional mechanism for recording and archiving institutional concerns pertaining to pay, pension and service conditions of the district judiciary.

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“It shall ensure that hospitals of a requisite standard with necessary facilities are empanelled for every district in consultation with the Secretary in the Health Department of the State Government,” the bench said.

The committee will prescribe benchmarks for empanelment, it said, adding where medical care of the requisite standard for specified ailments is not available in the district concerned, treatment in respect of those ailments may be availed of elsewhere in an empanelled hospital.

“The Committee would be at liberty to take incidental measures covering situations where officers who have served in the State are residing outside the State. In such a case, the Committee may consider empanelment of hospitals outside the State so as to facilitate the availing of medical facilities,” the bench said.

The top court said 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 February 29, 2024.

“Each Committee working under the auspices of the High Court shall submit its report to this Court on or before April 7, 2024, through the Registrar General of the high court,” the bench said.

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