A Division Bench of the Supreme Court Of India comprising of Justice J. Chelameshwar and Justice S.K. Kaul on 11th May 2018 adjudicated a case in appeal “Mahesh Chandra Verma v. The State of Jharkhand Through: Its Chief Secretary and Ors” as to whether the Fast Track Court Judges who joined the regular judicial service thereafter were entitled to pension and other retiral benefits.
LEAD UP TO THE CASE:
The “11th Finance Commission of India” established under Article 275 of the Constitution of India allocated Rs.502.90 crores for the establishment of 1734 Courts known as “Fast Track Courts” across various states including the newly carved out State of Jharkhand.
The Supreme Court of India had in “Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India and Ors. – ” 1 (2002) 5 SCC 1 upheld the above-mentioned scheme with certain directions for appointment including for preferences which include ad hoc promotions among Judicial Officers, retired judges, direct appointment from the members of the Bar and the induction of the members of the bar into regular posts if these Courts cease to function.
In “Srikant Roy Vs State of Jharkhand” 2 (2017) 1 SCC 457 the Supreme Court overruled a subsequent 2008 decision of the Jharkhand High Court whereby it had mandated the appointment under the Fast Track Court Scheme through a “limited competitive examination”.
When the Central government stopped its funding to the Fast Track Courts and the Jharkhand State government also had problem in funding it, the issue of appointed judges and the further appointment of judges to the Fast Track Courts was decided by the Apex Court in “Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India – ” 3 (2012) 6 SCC 502 entitling their appointment to the regular cadre of Higher Judicial Services of the State government through written examination and interview by a selection committee. So now it was the states which had to take care of the emoluments of these Judges.
This aforesaid principle was reemphasized by the Apex Court in the “Mahesh Chandra Verma v. State of Jharkhand” 3 (2012) 11 SCC 656.
The Supreme Court of India had, in essence, taken recourse to the Article 142 of the Constitution of India in both the above-mentioned cases which entitles the Apex Court to pass any such decree or make such order, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.
THE PRESENT CASE:
The effect of these precedents were that that candidates were duly appointed to the Jharkhand Higher Judiciary Services but were treated as ” fresh recruits”.
The result of this was that the appellants, who worked in the Fast Track Courts for almost a decade, were aggrieved on the account that they were treated as fresh recruits in the present case denying them the benefits of pay protection and continuance of service which included their pension and retiral benefits.
The State Government in its defense, through its counsel, contended that the appointment in dispute was made under a temporary scheme for a limited period of time for the speedy disposal of cases and it provides that the persons appointed were conscious of the fact that they would have a limited tenure. Therefore, the appellants were not entitled to pensionary and retiral benefits.
The Court regarded this contention to be wholly improper and questioned it on four grounds:
A) The Court had neither explicitly nor implicitly prohibited any such grant.
B) The existing cadre strength of Judiciary was insufficient to sub-serve the justice delivery process and thus the need to set up Fast Track Courts arose while targeting certain priority areas for efficient adjudication.
C) The appointment was not under a temporary scheme but through a process to the regular post.The appellants were not appointed at the whim and fancy of any person but were on a merit list of a State judicial recruitment process. Moreover, they also went through a second selection process for such recruitment.
D) The appellants were a part of the judicial system for almost a decade and have performed their role as Judges to the satisfaction of the competent authorities for the period mentioned thereof.
The Apex Court ,therefore, held that the appellants and judicial officers identically situated are entitled to the benefit of the period of service rendered as Fast Track Court Judges to be counted for their length of service in determination of their pension and retiral benefits.
This post is penned by Gunjeet Singh Bagga.