Courts Update Tripura High Court takes suo motu cognizance of pensionary...

Tripura High Court takes suo motu cognizance of pensionary benefits for judicial officers declared by the state without consulting the judiciary

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Tripura Sept 3(ILNS): The Tripura High Court on September 02, took Suo Moto cognizance of the issue pertains to pensionary benefits that the new entrance in Tripura Judicial Service after July 1, 2018, would receive.

The Government of Tripura under a notification dated July 13, 2018, has framed New Defined Contributory Pension Scheme which would be applicable to all those who joined the State Government service on or after July 1, 2018.

The office of the Accountant General is of the opinion that this new pension scheme would be applicable also to the Judicial Officers of the District Judiciary. Accordingly, instructions have been issued to bring them over to the New Contributory Pension Scheme and also to discontinue their GPF accounts.

“A question in this respect would arise whether the State Government can unilaterally take such a decision”, the Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice S. G. Chattopadhyay observed.

The Supreme Court in successive cases has dealt with the issues pertaining to terms and conditions of the service of Judicial Officers of the District Judiciary, time and again observing that their service cannot be equated with other government servants.

The pay scales and other service conditions of Judicial officers, so far are governed by the recommendations made by the Pay Commissions appointed by the Supreme Court whose recommendations are accepted with modifications as directed by the Supreme Court in case of All India Judges’ Association and others versus Union of India and others reported in (1993) 4 SCC 288 and (2002) 4 SCC 247.

The Court noted that presently, the question of revision of pay scales of such Judicial officers is under consideration of the Supreme Court. A fresh Pay Commission of Justice P. Venkatarama Reddy has been appointed. The Pay Commission has also submitted its report containing its recommendations. These recommendations are being examined by the Supreme Court.

The Bench further observed that, when the Supreme Court is assessing all these issues and such considerations are at an advanced stage, the question is, was it open for the State Government to materially alter the service conditions of certain Judicial officers. Post-retiral benefits are important elements of a person’s service conditions. Such a decision has been taken by the State Government even without consultation with the Chief Justice.

In such a background, a detailed note of the Chief Justice was placed before the State Government under a letter dated February 23, 2021, recommending that this decision may be reconsidered. More than six months have passed since then there is no official response from the Government, the Court further noted.

“This issue is far too important to be left to the uncertainties of executive delays. Terms and conditions of service including post-retiral benefits of a Judicial officer touch the very core of the independence of the judiciary. It is, therefore, decided to take this issue in suo motu public interest petition”, the order reads.

In light of those facts the Court has issued notice to the respondents and for better assistance to the Court and for collecting necessary facts and data, the Court ordered that the Tripura Judicial Officers’ Association be added as an additional respondent./ILNS/SS/SNG

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