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Friday, April 18, 2008

HC judges discuss 10-fold salary increase

On the agenda for discussion at the conference of chief justices presided over by CJI K G Balakrishnan is a recommendation that Supreme Court and high court judges be paid a salary of Rs 3 lakh a month — a 10-fold hike on what they now get.
The government decides on the salaries of judges but the conference, which began on Thursday, is considering the issue in a paper that has been submitted.
It traces the government's "step-motherly" treatment of the judiciary in terms of pay revision since Independence and argues that judges be put in a higher salary bracket than top bureaucrats.
The paper notes that the Sixth Pay Commission, for future appointments of chairpersons of regulatory bodies such as SEBI, TRAI, CERC, CCI and IRDA, has recommended consolidated salary of upto Rs 3 lakh per month.
"The Chief Justice of India, judges of the Supreme Court, chief justices and judges of high courts are professionally qualified, highly experienced persons, who are experts in the field of law and who have sacrificed lucrative practice at Bar to serve the country. They cannot be paid less than chairpersons of regulatory bodies whose orders are challenged before them everyday,'' the agenda paper says.
The argument comes in the wake of the CJI noting recently that the judiciary was not being able attract talent.
The case made out by the paper is that getting bright legal minds to sacrifice sumptuous earnings of a private practice will require some modicum of compensation. Even if this is not on a par with private earnings, the comparison would improve.
The TOI, in a recent report, had pitched for substantial pay hike for judges and had suggested a salary packet of Rs 1.5 lakh for the CJI.
The agenda paper says, "There is an immediate need for enhancement of salaries and allowances and service conditions of superior judiciary in our country after delinking them from the salary of government servants''.
It said the salary of judges was kept at par with secretary-level bureaucrats whereas "the British Parliament had no difficulty in giving a salary of 10,000 pounds per month to the Lord Chancellor (equivalent to the CJI), when the salary of the PM was £5,000 per month''.
The argument of maintaining parity in the salary structure of judges with civil servants does not hold and fails to take into consideration the position existing prior to September 1, 1965, when salaries of judges were more than those of secretaries, it said.

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