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SC amends law to equalise advocate-judges’ pension with other judges

The Supreme Court has today ordered a retrospective amendment in the High Court Judges Rules 1956, to standardise all retired higher judiciary judges’ pension.

The SC has also said that “we hope and trust that the states”, which had not yet extended various post-retirement benefits to retired higher court judges, would do so within six months.

Currently the pension of judges who were elevated to a high court judgeship from the bar, is lower than that given to judges who were elevated from the lower judiciary.

Members who were elevated from the bar, as part of the Association of the Retired Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, had filed writs asserting that it was arbitrary to not add 10 years to their service for the purpose of pension, when 10 years were added to the service of judges elevated to the high courts from the district judiciary, and in the case of judges elevated from anywhere to the Supreme Court.

This was affecting bar-elevated high court judges obtaining a full pension, which judges elevated from district courts would get even after serving for only one or two years as high court judges.

The Association prayed that the number of years practiced as an advocate should be added to the service as a Judge of the High Court for the purpose of determining the maximum pension permissible under the High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act 1954.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam agreed. “One rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a Constitutional Office”, he said, adding: “We accept the petitioners’ claim and declare that for pensionary benefits, ten years’ practice as an advocate be added as a qualifying service for Judges elevated from the Bar”.

Discriminating in the pensions received was in breach of Articles 14 and 16(1) of the constitution.

“In order to remove arbitrariness in the matter of pension of the Judges of the High Courts elevated from the Bar, the reliefs, as mentioned above are to be reckoned from 01.04.2004, the date on which Section 13A was inserted by the High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act, 2005 (46 of 2005). Requisite amendment be carried out in the High Court Judges Rules, 1956 with regard to post-retiral benefits as has been done in relation to the retired Judges of the Supreme Court in terms of amendment carried out by Rule 3B of the Supreme Court Judges Rules, 1959.”

The bench also said:

... we hope and trust that the States who have not so far framed [a post-retirement benefit] scheme will formulate the same, depending on the local conditions, for the benefit of the retired Chief Justices and retired Judges of the respective High Courts as early as possible preferably within a period of six months from the date of receipt of copy of this order.

The Supreme Court singled out Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (AP) as two states that had already implemented pension reform for the judiciary.

In AP, in particular, the state government sanctioned amounts to pay for an “orderly, driver, security guard etc.” and for meeting expenses incurred towards secretarial assistance” - Rs 14,000 per month to retired high court chief justices, and Rs 12,000 per month for retired high court justices. Retired judges would also be allowed free phone calls up to a cap. In Rajasthan, the high court directed the state government to pay retired judges an additional Rs 7,500 to 9,000 per month to pay for “domestic help / peon / driver / telephone expenses and secretarial assistance”.

Read judgment: WP 521 of 2002, P Ramakrishnam Raju vs Union [PDF]

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