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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre whether it has forgotten to take steps to increase the salary of judges of constitutional courts, whose emoluments are far less than bureaucrats after implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission’s recommendations.
During the hearing on a case relating to grant of washing allowance to apex court staff and officers, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazir asked additional solicitor general P S Narasimha, “What about the salary of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts which was to be brought at par with 7th Pay Commission recommendations for central government employees?”
The proposal to increase judges’s pay was accepted in principle by the Union government in March but has been pending further action. Salary of judges can be increased only through an amendment passed by Parliament.
After implementation of the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations, the highest ranking bureaucrat, the cabinet secretary, gets a salary of Rs 2.5 lakh apart from allowances.
Compared to this, the Chief Justice of India, who figures above the cabinet secretary in the table of precedence, draws a salary of Rs 1 lakh, excluding HRA, other allowances and perks. SC judges and chief justices of HCs get a salary of Rs 90,000 per month plus allowances. HC judges get a salary of Rs 80,000 per month along with allowances.
Prior to amendment of salary and service conditions of SC and HC judges by Parliament in 2009, SC judges and HC CJs got a salary of Rs 30,000 per month and HC judges got Rs 26,000 a month, both excluding allowances and perks. The CJI got a salary of Rs 33,000 per month.
TOI spoke to SC and HC judges, who said it was not entirely an issue of money but a question of self-respect. The hierarchy of SC and HC judges has been entrenched in tradition and set by constitutional mandate. To allow a situation where judges of constitutional courts continue to draw salaries far lower than bureaucrats would not be in keeping with the independence and prestige of the judiciary, they said.
In March, the Centre had substantially accepted a proposal, framed by a three-judge panel of the SC, and agreed to increase the CJI’s monthly salary to Rs 2.8 lakh, excluding allowances, and that of SC judges to Rs 2.5 lakh, in view of the steep increase in salary of top bureaucrats.The government, as reported by TOI on March 26, had also contemplated increasing the salary of HC CJs to Rs 2.5 lakh a month and that of HC judges to Rs 2.25 lakh a month. The three-judge panel had proposed a salary of Rs 3 lakh a month for the CJI. After in principle acceptance of the proposed hike, the government had to move a bill in Parliament to amend the salary structure for judges.
During the hearing on Tuesday, ASG Narasimha said he would take instruction from the government on this issue and get back to the court on November 14. Turning to the main issue in the case relating to grant of washing allowance to court staff and officers, the ASG said under the Constitution, the constitutional courts could not have initiated grant of washing allowance to its staff without consent from the President.
Narasimha said Delhi HC had suo motu started giving washing allowance to its staff, which was legally impermissible.
Following this, SC employees too filed a petition seeking parity with HC employees, he said. The ASG said the government had abolished as many as 158 types of allowances being paid in various offices and places and brought it down to six or seven allowances.