Last month,the Centre issued an ordinance to bring about a three-fold hike in the salaries of the higher judiciary with immediate effect but a serving judge of the Bombay High Court,Justice B H Marlapalle,declined to accept his salary this month saying he would not like to be seen rushing to get a hike but would rather wait until it becomes an Act of Parliament.
This is what Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had suggested in an interview to The Indian Express on February 12 when he said: I hope judges will not accept the pay hike that will come to them through an ordinance.
Justice Marlapalle,in fact,wrote to Chatterjee on February 14 apprising him of his decision. In that letter,he called for a public declaration of assets by all judges and cited his personal example for 10 years,he has been providing the Chief Justice of his court details of his assets and has also given a list of expenses on his daughters wedding in December last year.
Coincidentally,the Lok Sabha today passed The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill,2008. According to the Bill,while the hike in the salary of the Chief Justice of India would be from Rs 33,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month,that of other apex court judges from Rs 30,000 to Rs 90,000 per month. The salary of a High Court Chief Justice goes from from Rs 30,000 to Rs 90,000 per month and that of HC judges from Rs 26,000 to Rs 80,000 per month.
When contacted by The Indian Express,Justice Marlapalle declined to comment. But when pressed,he said: I dont want to talk about it. All I can say is that I am not without money. I can survive,I do not want to appear rushed into getting a hike.
Appreciating the judges principled stand, Chatterjee replied: I expect the bill to be passed soon…the point I had tried to make was on principle that unless there was some extreme urgency,no law should be made through an Ordinance,as it has been done in this occasion. It seems there is some misunderstanding in some places but I have nothing against the judiciary or the learned judges,who are doing great service to the country.
Declaration of assets by judges has been in the news as the Supreme Court challenged a recent Central Information Commission ruling asking whether courts,as public bodies,were making information about judges (their assets) public and whether they were under the purview of the Right to Information Act.