Cabinet to decide fate of 38 special courts today

  • Govt can abolish these courts, but has to release pending salary: HC

SRINAGAR: The fate of 38 Additional and Special Mobile Magistrates and the staff attached to these courts will be decided by the state cabinet, headed by CM Mufti Sayeed, when it meets on Wednesday for only the second time after ‘darbar move’ offices opened in Srinagar. The salary of the staff of these courts has been pending for the past five months.
The 38 courts were established under the 13th Finance Commission in lieu of creating morning and evening courts in the state for improving the justice delivery system
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, the J&K High Court on Tuesday made it clear to the government that it cannot review its order and that it was bound to release the pending salary to the presiding officers and staff of these courts.
“Taking a decision on continuation of theses courts is one aspect and taking the decision about the direction of the court is another issue. You (government) cannot review the High Court order and only the Supreme Court can do so,” a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Masoodi told advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie soon after he moved an application on behalf of the Chief Secretary and others on an extension to comply with the court’s directions regarding release of Rs 4.5 crore for the payment of salary to the presiding officers and staff of the courts.
Referring to the application, Ganie submitted the cabinet will take a decision regarding the continuation or otherwise of these courts beyond the sanction period as well as financial liability when it meets on Wednesday.
However, the bench took exception to the liability part of it, observing that the government was bound to comply with its directions. “You can take the decision to abolish the court and whether your decision is legal or otherwise, we will see later; but what about the payment of salary which is ordered by the court? You cannot review the High Court order,” the bench said, emphasising that the government was bound to pay the due salary.
“If you decide to continue (with the courts), the liability is yours and if you decide otherwise, the liability is still yours,” the bench said.
Responding to the court’s query, the advocate general referred to the prayer made in the application, stating that it specifically sought extension of time for “compliance of court orders.” Subsequently, the court posted the case for consideration on Thursday.
The court was hearing a suo moto public interest litigation based on a report by its Registry that the presiding officers and staff of these courts were facing difficulties due to non-payment of salaries for the last five months.
The Registry had informed the court that the Government of India has stopped funding under the scheme, due to which from March this year, the judicial officers as well as the staff were not getting their salary. The registry said that the salary amount required for the financial year 2015-2016 was Rs 10,38,97,152. It said a sum of Rs 86,58,096 was required as monthly salary and an amount of Rs 4,32,90,480 for clearing the pending salaries of the judicial officers and the staff for five months from March to July this year.
Meanwhile, sources said the cabinet will frame its decision mainly on whether these courts have met the objective of reducing the pendency of cases.