The Centre’s amended rules allowing lifetime staff for retired Chief Justices of India and Supreme Court judges have become a cause of concern for those among them who chose a quiet retired life in their own villages.
On August 26, the Ministry of Law and Justice amended the Supreme Court Judges Rules to provide chauffeurs and domestic help for former Chief Justices and top court judges for their entire lifetime. Retired CJIs were given the added benefit of secretarial assistants.
Former judges can draw these employees from the Supreme Court or the High Court’s staff pool. The courts would pay their salaries. The pay and allowances would be that of a regular employee of the Supreme Court.
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However, former Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, who lives in his farm in the remote Kadappanallur village of Erode district in Tamil Nadu, said the amended rules may not suit people like him who have retired away from the hustle and bustle of capital cities.
Prior to the amendments in the rules, Justice Sathasivam said former CJIs were given ₹70,000 and former judges ₹39,000 every month. The money was used by them to employ personal staff of their individual choice.
However, instead of the monthly payment now, the new rules restrict retired judges to choose their staff from among the top court or High Court employees.
According to the new rules, the domestic help would be equivalent to the level of a junior court assistant, the chauffeur would rank equal to his counterpart in the Supreme Court and the secretarial assistant would be equivalent to the level of a branch officer in the Supreme Court.
“What would such qualified people do in a small village like mine where the activity is predominantly farming? The help of such staff would be invaluable for retired CJIs and judges living in metros… But the government should also think of former CJIs like me who chose not to live in cosmopolitan cities and have retired to our villages… The Supreme Court is 1,500 km from where I stay and the High Court is 350 km away… which qualified person would want to come and work in a small village,” Justice Sathasivam told The Hindu over phone.
Justice Sathasivam said the government ought to give former judges a choice between monthly payments as before the amendments and lifetime staffers.
He said several retired Supreme Court judges, including former Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, who also lives in a farm, and Justice R. Banumathi, have shared their concerns with him about the new rules. Justice Sathasivam said he has already talked to Supreme Court judge, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, about the issue and intends to approach Chief Justice U.U. Lalit.
“I did not want to bother Chief Justice Lalit today as he would have been busy on his first working day,” Justice Sathasivam said.