All India Judges Association vs Union Of India 2024 INSC 26 :: [2024] 1 S.C.R. 327 – Second National Judicial Pay Commission – Recommendations – Judicial Service

Second National Judicial Pay Commission – Recommendations accepted – Directed the constitution of a Committee in each High Court for overseeing the 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. – All States and Union Territories shall now act in terms of the above directions expeditiously. 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 February 2024. The CSCDJs institutionalized in terms of the directions issued earlier shall monitor compliance. Each Committee working under the auspices of the High Court shall submit its report to this Court on or before 7 April 2024 through the Registrar General of the High Court.

Objections raised against SNJPC recommendations considered – a plea of financial burden cannot be raised to resist mandatory duties of the state. Providing necessary service conditions for the effective discharge of judicial functions is one such duty – 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 – It would be wholly 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 entirely distinct for members of the judicial service. (Para 10-18)

Judicial service – Judicial Service is an integral and significant component of the functions of the State and contributes to the constitutional obligation to sustain the rule of law. Judicial service is distinct in its characteristics and in terms of the responsibilities which are cast upon the officers of the District Judiciary to render objective dispensation of justice to citizens. 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. Members of the district judiciary are the first point of engagement for citizens who are confronted with the need for dispute resolution. The conditions in which judicial officers across the country are required to work are arduous. The work of a judicial officer is not confined merely to the working hours endered in the course of judicial duties in the court. Every judicial officer is required to work both before and after the court working hours. The judicial work of each day requires preparation before cases are called out. A judicial officer continues to work on cases which may have been dealt with in court, in terms of preparing the judgment and attending to other administrative aspects of the judicial record. That apart, members of the district judiciary have wide ranging administrative functions which take place beyond working hours, especially on week-ends including the discharge of numerous duties in relation to prison establishments, juvenile justice institutions, legal service camps and in general, work associated with the Legal Services Act 1987 – The work of a Judge cannot be assessed solely in terms of their duties during court working hours. 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. Judicial officers spend the largest part of their working life in service of the institution. The nature of the office often renders the incumbent incapacitated in availing of opportunities for legal work which may otherwise be available to a member of the Bar. That furnishes an additional reason why post-retirement, it is necessary for the State to ensure that judicial officers are able to live in conditions of human dignity. It needs to be emphasized that providing for judges, both during their tenure and upon retirement, is correlated with the independence of the judiciary. 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 the 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. (Para 13-14)

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