When persons who occupied the Constitutional Office of High Court Judge retire, there should not be any discrimination with regard to the fixation of their pension, the Supreme Court held on Monday.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana while allowing a batch of petitions filed by retired judges said, “irrespective of the source from where the Judges are drawn (from among district judges or from among lawyers), they must be paid the same pension just as they have been paid same salaries and allowances and perks as serving Judges.”
The bench held that fixation of higher pension to the Judges drawn from the Subordinate Judiciary who had served for shorter period in contradistinction to Judges drawn from the Bar who had served for longer period with less pension was highly discriminatory and breach of Article 14 of the Constitution. The classification itself is unreasonable without any legally acceptable nexus with the object sought to be achieved. One rank one pension must be the norm in respect of a Constitutional Office” the Bench said.
Writing the judgment the CJI Sathasivam said, “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 experience and knowledge gained by a successful lawyer at the Bar can never be considered to be less important from any point of view vis-à-vis the experience gained by a judicial officer.”
The bench while directing the government to amend the rules with effect from 2004 said, “the meager pension for Judges drawn from the Bar and served for less than 12 years on the Bench adversely affects the image of the Judiciary. When pensions are meager because of the shorter service, lawyers who attain distinction in the profession may not, because of this anomaly, accept the office of Judgeship. When capable lawyers do not show inclination towards Judgeship, the quality of justice declines.”