The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, was approved by the Lok Sabha, and it intends to change the High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954, and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958. These Acts govern the salaries and working conditions of judges in India’s High Courts and Supreme Court.
All retired Supreme Court and High Court judges, as well as their family members, are entitled to a pension or family pension under the Acts. When they reach a specific age, they are also entitled to an extra amount of pension or family pension based on a scale. The scale is divided into five age categories (minimum ages of 80, 85, 90, 95, and 100 years), with the extra quantum increasing with each age bracket (from 20% to 100% of the pension or family pension). The bill specifies that a person will be eligible for an extra pension or family pension on the first day of the month following the month in which they reach the minimum age under the relevant age group.
While discussing the Bill yesterday, MP Pinaki Misra of the Biju Janta Dal raised the question of whether it was proper for Parliament to enact this legislation since the High Courts and Supreme Court had reached conflicting conclusions. He had said that the Gauhati and Madhya Pradesh High Courts had clarified that “from” in the HC and SC (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Acts meant the day one reaches the age of majority. He went on to say that these rulings were appealed to the Supreme Court, which rejected the case in 2019. He said that by introducing the current “validating Act,” the government was attempting to overturn the Gauhati High Court’s decision, which had been declared final by the Supreme Court.
In response, Union Minister of Law and Justice Mr. Kiren Rijiju stated today that it was the legislature’s responsibility to explain the legislature’s objective if the courts misinterpreted a position. He went on to say,
“In terms of pay and pension, we are not decreasing the benefits of judges. We’re only explaining the legislature’s objective. The House’s legislative dominance cannot be questioned. It would be a tremendous headache for us if all state personnel start demanding pensions based on the Gauhati HC decision.”
Members of Parliament debated the Bill while also considering related topics such as judicial pendency, vacancy, judicial transfers, and appointment. The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2021, was approved by the Lok Sabha today after a lengthy debate.