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Supreme Court issues notice on plea of high court employees over uniform pay scales

P. S. Patwalia, Sr. Advocate appeared on behalf of the petitioners along with Ms. Mayuri Raghuvanshi, Advocate on Record, Mr. Vyom Raghuvanshi, Advocate & Ms. Purvat Wali, Advocate.

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The Supreme Court today has issued notice on a plea by “association of employees” of various high court across the country seeking directions to provide them uniform or comparable pay structure/basic pay scale, emoluments etc alleging “disparity & discrimination” with regard to the determination of their pay, allowances & working condition

The bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjiv Khanna in plea filed by “All India High Court Employees Federation and Ors. vs. Union of India And Ors,” directed that notice be issued to Central Government as well as to all the State Governments along with Union territories and to all the High Courts. The matter would now be heard on October 7, 2021. 

Senior Advocate P.S. Patwalia appeared on behalf of the petitioners along with Advocate on Record Mayuri Raghuvanshi, Advocate Vyom Raghuvanshi and Advocate Purvat Wali. 

This petition is filed by the All-India High Court Employees Federation, Chhattisgarh High Court Employees Association, Orissa High Court Employees Association, Gujarat High Court Employees Association, Manipur High Court Employees Association. 

The petitioners have approached the Supreme Court under Article 32. They are associations whose members are employees of various High Courts across the country. The grievance raised it that despite the nature of work done by the employees of the High Courts across the country being the same, there is disparity in pay scales & emoluments and discrimination with regard to determination of their pay, allowances as well as working conditions amongst them. 

This Writ Petition is seeking review the service conditions of the members of subordinate judiciary and seeks a writ for a uniform or comparable pay structure/ basic pay scale, emoluments and  working conditions across the High Courts. 

The petition further seeks a reference of their case to the Commission headed by Justice P. Venkatarama Reddi or any other Commission as the Court may deemed fit. It also seeks relief from the Supreme Court to:

• Examine and evolve pay structure/basic pay scale, emoluments of the employees of the High Court across India

• Examine and suggest functional designations for the posts according to job contents and suggest simplification/modification of cadres recommend permanent mechanism for review of pay in service condition of the employees of High Court across India periodically

• Examine the working conditions of the High Court staff and suggest measures for improvement

The petitioners state that the Central Government constitutes the Pay Commission usually after every 10 years for revision of pay scales and a similar exercise is taken by the State Governments. However, the same excludes the employees of the High Courts. Hence, no periodic, independent and consultative similar exercise is taken for the petitioners. They state that the usual practice is to apply the pay scales applicable to the State government employees to the High Court staff if the High Court is located in the state or pay scales applicable to Central Government Employees if the High Court is located in Union Territory. Since the nature of work is same of the petitioners, there is thus a disparity in the pay and service conditions. 

It is pleaded that the light of Article 229 of the Constitution of India , they are rightfully entitled to be treated at par with each other in the matter of minimum required conditions relating to pay , allowances, perquisites, working conditions, designation of posts, skill enhancement through in-service training, healthcare, housing and infrastructural facilities etc.

It further states that with time the disparity would only increase. 

Background:

in 1996, the 1st National Judicial Pay Commission under the chairmanship of K.J. Shetty was constituted to review the service conditions of the judges. The service conditions of the staff of district court or High Court did not fall within the scope of the terms of reference of the Commission, which were included in its terms of reference in 1997. 

The petition makes a case for the staff of subordinate judiciary as the Supreme Court in All India Judges Association v. Union of India and Others (1998) had directed the Hon’ble Shetty Commisison to examine the service conditions which were subsequently accepted. 

Thereafter, in May 2017, the Supreme Court directed the constitution of the commission headed by Justice P. Venkatarama Reddy in All India Judges Association v. Union of India and others (WPC No. 643 of 2015) where the terms of reference did not include the employees of the High Courts

Read Also: Gauhati HC asks official to inspect village divided by railway track

Subsequently in Novermber 2017, notice was issued by the Supreme Court on a writ petition (WPC No.1040/2017) filed by the staff attached to the judges praying that their case may also be referred to commission headed by Hon’ble Mr. Justice P. Venkatarama Reddy. 

On 28th July 2020, the commission headed by Justice P. Venkatrama Reddy has submitted a report to this Hon’ble Court in W.P. (C) No. 643/2015. Therefore the petitioners have filed the present writ petition. 

Hence, the Supreme Court on 27th August has issued noice and directed the matter to be listed together with WP (C) 643 of 2015 and WP (C) No. 1040 of 2017 on 7th October 2021.

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