New Pension Scheme for Judicial Officers : Delhi HC issues notice in challenge
Notice was issued to the Delhi government in a petition filed by Delhi Judicial Service Association.
As per the estimate given in the petition, while the old pension scheme entitled a judicial officer to a monthly pension of Rs 1,17,000, the new scheme restricts the amount to Rs 25,000 per month.
Notice was issued to the Delhi government by a Single Judge Bench of Justice AK Chawla in a petition filed by Delhi Judicial Service Association (DJSA).
DJSA is the registered association of judicial officers of NCT Delhi. It was formed with the objective of maintaining an efficient and independent judiciary as well as overseeing the interest and welfare of judicial officers in the city.
The petitioner association has contended that the new pension scheme is in direct contravention of the Supreme Court’s orders governing the service conditions of judicial officers.
DJSA argues that as per the earlier pension scheme applicable to judicial officers pursuant to the Supreme Court’s orders in All India Judges’ Association & Ors vs UOI, a judicial officer was guaranteed a minimum of 50% of the last pay drawn as pension.
However, under the new pension scheme, a judicial officer was required to compulsorily contribute 10% of his/her basic pay and dearness allowance, with matching contribution from the Delhi government. Thereafter, upon superannuation, a judicial officer is allowed to withdraw only 60% of the total pension wealth on retirement.
The balance 40% is mandatorily required to be deposited/invested in an Insurance Annuity Scheme. The monthly amount received from this Insurance Annuity Scheme will be the monthly pension of a judicial officer under the new pension scheme.
It is the petitioner association’s grievance that the new pension scheme treats judicial officers at par with the civil servants in Delhi, and also applies retrospectively.
Relying on the All India Judges case, the petitioner has submitted that judicial officers of the subordinate judiciary are an organ of the sovereign state and did not qualify as being employed by the State.
DJSA has, therefore, contended that the Delhi government had “absolutely no power” to modify the salaries and pension payable to judicial officers, without the leave the Supreme Court.
It has further been asserted that the service conditions of the members of the subordinate judiciary, including pension, is exclusively governed by committees appointed by the Supreme Court from time to time.
It is also stated that the service conditions of judicial officers have been governed by the First National Judicial Pay Commission i.e Justice Shetty Commission, which submitted its report in 1999, and the Padmanbhan Committee, which tabled its report in 2009.
The final report of the third such Committee under the aegis of Justice P Ventakarama Reddi is presently pending, it is added.
DJSA has thus asserted that by including judicial officers in the new pension scheme, the Delhi government has equated the service conditions of judicial officers and civil servants, in contravention of the Supreme Court’s decision in the All India Judges case.
The petitioner also states that similar contributory pension schemes have already been held to be inapplicable to the judicial officers of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
DJSA was represented by Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan with Advocates Sachin Jain, Isha Aggarwal and Ajay Kumar Aggarwal.
The matter will be heard next on August 7.
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