Saturday December 04, 2021

Punjab judiciary seeks additional benefits

July 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab judiciary demands an enhancement in utility allowance, upgradation of district and sessions judges to BS-22 and inclusion of judicial and special judicial allowances for calculation of pension to employees of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and subordinate judiciary in the province.

However, the Finance Department as well as the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) have advised the chief minister that approval of these demands would further create anomalies, aberrations and invite litigations as thjudges and employees of the judiciary are already getting far higher salaries and additional benefits as compared to the civil servants.

According to a summary moved for the CM’s approval by S&GAD, with the consent of the CJ LHC, a delegation comprising LHC establishment including registrar, district and sessions judges (HR) and senior research officers met the chief minister Punjab and put forward the following three demands:

a. Increase in utility allowance to officers/officials of LHC establishment as well as judges and employees of the district judiciary, Punjab.

b. Upgradation of district and sessions judges from BS-21 to BS-22 on completion of 4-5 years’ service.

c. Reckoning of judicial allowance and special judicial allowance towards pension.

Following the meeting, the matter was forwarded to the S&GAD for further action. According to the summary, the issue has been under active consideration of the Punjab government for quite some time and a series of meetings were held following which the Punjab government firmed up its views on the matter.

Regarding increase in utility allowance of officers/officials of the LHC establishment as well as judges and employees of the district judiciary Punjab, the summary said the said allowance was doubled by the LHC in Feb 2020 with effect from Dec 2019 for officers and staff of the LHC establishment as well as subordinate judiciary. However, neither the governor nor the chief minister had approved the increase. Consequently, the Accountant General Punjab was asked not to implement the increase until approved by the competent authority. The summary says that allowing this increase will cost additional Rs1.02 billion which will incur perpetual financial implications. The summary said the Punjab government granted utility allowance to its secretariat employees only and field formations are also demanding the same but due to high financial implications of Rs117 billion, the government has denied the said allowance.

In case of its extension to subordinate judiciary, similarly placed employees of field formations of other administrative departments would exert extra pressure, through incessant protests and litigations. Already various employees’ associations are protesting and demanding the same. The S&GAD summary said that enhancement of utility allowance may be kept limited to the LHC establishment only.

Regarding the Punjab judiciary’s demand for upgradation of district and sessions judges from BS-21 to BS-22, the S&GAD said the Finance Division is of the view that the district and sessions judges are civil servants for whom the scheme of “time scale personal upgradation” was introduced on completion of 10 years’ regular service with effect from Feb 01, 2019. “Any exception to that policy would create an anomalous situation,” reads the summary. It added that the posts of provincial civil officers have never been upgraded, whereas the posts of provincial judicial officers were already upgraded with effect from January 01, 2008.

The summary said that no officer of the batch of Provincial Management Service (PMS), recruited in 2000, has been promoted to BS-19 up till now, but civil judges appointed in 2000 have been promoted to BS-20 four-five years ago.

It said that granting BS-22 to district and sessions judges will create aberrations. The S&GAD suggested, “As an alternative, the judiciary may opt out of the NPS framework and a judicial pay scale system be introduced. This will provide a lasting solution. A time-bound plan for legislation is already being considered for this.”

The summary also did not endorse the demand for the reckoning of judicial allowance and special judicial allowance towards pension. The summary said these views are prepared in consultation with the Finance Department. On June 04, 2020, the chief minister saw the summary and approved its submission to the finance secretary.