Supreme Court Modifies Performance Evaluation for Junior Judges: Unveils New Pay Structure and Retirement Benefits

The Supreme Court has announced a paradigm shift in how junior judicial officers are evaluated in their initial years. The highest court in the land has decided that the first two years of a civil judge’s career, often marked by training and deputations, should not be viewed harshly if they are unable to meet the prescribed targets.

During this learning phase, the court explained that “no real work output is expected out of the judicial officer.” Accordingly, the court ruled that the inability to reach the disposal targets or satisfy the quantitative norms during this initial stage should not be taken seriously. This approach aligns with the objective behind the Assessment of Cumulative Performance (ACP), offering much-needed leniency to those starting their judicial careers.

The Supreme Court has also transformed the existing pay structure for judicial officers. The court has chosen to replace the ‘Master Pay Scale’ pattern with the ‘Pay Accepted Matrix’ pattern, modeled after the seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC). This shift aims to eliminate any inconsistencies and rationalize the pay structure, ensuring fair benefits to all judicial officers across different cadres. The updated structure assigns judicial officers ranks based on their status in the functional hierarchy, illustrated in the table presented in the report.

Notably, the entry pay for each rank has been set approximately 2.81 times higher than the existing entry pay, except for ranks J-6 and J-7, which align with the proportional increase for a High Court Judge. The report further clarifies that the new pay percentages, compared to the salary of a High Court Judge, will vary for each cadre and grade.

Another significant change pertains to the annual increments, which will now be cumulative at a rate of 3%, calculated based on the previous year’s basic pay. This alteration replaces the previous system of fixed amount increments.

Furthermore, the court ruled that the date of accruing increments will remain unchanged from the current system followed across various states and Union Territories. It means the increment will be issued once a year, based on the date of appointment, promotion, or financial upgradation.

It’s clear that this is a significant shift in how the judiciary handles its junior-most members. This ruling underscores the Supreme Court’s commitment to nurturing new talent and underscores its understanding that these officers need time to grow into their roles without the pressure of unrealistic expectations.

Retirement benefits, too, have been reshaped in the decision. Officers retiring after January 1, 2016, will receive a pension equal to 50% of their last drawn pay. For those officers who retired prior to this date, the Court has proposed two possible formulations for pension revision, both of which could lead to increased pension amounts. These provisions will also apply to the family members of retired officers, who will receive 30% of the last drawn pay as a family pension.

In a comprehensive reshaping of judicial remuneration, the Supreme Court’s decision sets a new course for the Indian judiciary. It brings a more humane and understanding view to the initial years of a judicial officer’s career, allowing them the room to learn and grow without undue pressure. At the same time, it also ensures a fair and just remuneration structure, giving due credit to those who have served and continue to serve in the justice system.

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