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The dearness allowance of judges of the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts has been increased even as proposals to give them a salary hike are pending approval of the Union Cabinet. In a letter to the secretary general of the apex court and registrars general of the high courts last month, the department of justice in the law ministry said that the DA of the judges has been revised to 139 per cent with effect from July 1 "at the same rates (139 per cent) as are admissible to the members of the all-India service". The letter pointed out that according to the revised rates, central government employees continuing to draw their pay in the pre-revised pay scale as per the Sixth Pay Commission are entitled to the DA at the rate of 139 per cent which was revised from 136 per cent. The judges have been given the DA hike based on the 6th Pay Commission as two bills to provide them the benefits of the Seventh Pay Commission are pending approval of the Union Cabinet. The bills are likely to come up for Cabinet's consideration in the coming days and would be tabled in Parliament in the Winter Session. While one bill deals with salary and allowances of the Supreme Court judges, the other deals with salary of the high court judges. During a hearing last week on a case relating to grant of washing allowance to apex court staff and officers, a bench of justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazir had reportedly asked Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha about the salary of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts which was to be brought on par with Seventh Pay Commission recommendations for central government employees. In 2016, the then Chief Justice of India T S Thakur had written to the government seeking a hike in salaries of the Supreme Court and the high court judges on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee of judges which was set up by the CJI to look into the issue of salary and emoluments. Sources in the government said the issue is under active consideration and a bill to amend The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act may come up in the Winter Session of Parliament. Government functionaries said the quantum of the hike will not be as recommended by the judges' committee. They said the hike in pay packets would be applicable from January 1, 2016. The judges' committee recommended a pay hike of Rs 2.8 lakh for Supreme Court judges, Rs 2.5 lakh for high court judges. A Supreme Court judge at present gets Rs 1.5 lakh a month in hand after all deductions from salary and allowances.
The CJI gets a higher amount than this, while the judges of the high court get a lesser amount. This amount does not include the rent-free residences provided to the judges while they are in service. After the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, the matter was already under the consideration of the government. While the approved strength of judges in the apex court is 31, it is 1,079 in the 24 high courts. There are several vacancies.