The Supreme Court Monday held that “one rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a Constitutional Office” of judges and allowed the plea of former judges of high courts and apex court drawn from the Bar that their retirement benefits should be matched with those elevated from subordinate courts.
The apex court delivered the judgement in this regard on the petitions filed by former judges of the higher judiciary alleging discrimination as the years served by them at Bar as advocates are not considered in grant of pension while those elevated from subordinate courts get the benefit of their service duration.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said such classification was not only “unreasonable” and “adversely affects the image of the Judiciary” but also comes in the way of quality of justice as capable lawyers do not show inclination towards Judgeship.
“When persons holding constitutional office retire from service, making discrimination in the fixation of their pensions depending upon the source from which they were appointed is in breach of Articles 14 and 16(1) of the Constitution. One rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a Constitutional Office,” the bench, also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana said.
It further said “When a Civil Servant retires from service, the family pension is fixed at a higher rate whereas in the case of Judges of the High Court, it is fixed at a lower rate. No discrimination can be made in the matter of payment of family pension”.
The bench said there should not be any discrimination with regard to the fixation of their pension irrespective of the source from where Judges are drawn and they must be paid the same pension just as they have been paid same salaries and allowances and perks as serving Judges.
“Only practicing Advocates who have attained eminence are invited to accept Judgeship of the High Court. Because of the status of the office of High Court Judge, the responsibilities and duties attached to the office, hardly any advocate of distinction declines the offer.
“Though it may be a great financial sacrifice to a successful lawyer to accept Judgeship, it is the desire to serve the society and the high prestige attached to the office and the respect the office commands that propel a successful lawyer to accept Judgeship,” the bench observed.