Reading higher judiciary-pay right

  • While comparing the salaries of HC/SC judges with the income of legal professionals in private practice, reflect on the full cost incurred by the government in remunerating judges.
  • Suggestions on remuneration to HC/SC judges.

A shorter version of article was published in the Financial Express. Read Here

A former High Court Judge Dama Naidu said, in an interview to Bar and Bench that “if you want real talent for the judiciary, the position should be more remunerative.”

While the remuneration of senior advocates with judges cannot be compared it is important the remuneration of High and Supreme Court judges be looked at from the cost to government (including post-retirement) and not basic pay. This article does that and makes some suggestions too.

According to the Department of Justice, GOI, “Salaries, pension etc. in respect of Judges of Supreme Court are governed by the Supreme Court (SC) Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958 and of High Court (HC) judges by High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954.”


Salaries, Allowances etc. of SC Judges are paid from the Consolidated Fund of India and of HC Judges are paid upon the Consolidated Fund of the States. In both cases Pension is paid by the Consolidated Fund of India.


Salaries, Allowances, Perquisites of Supreme and High Court Judges




HC Judge

Salary per month



Dearness Allow app 40%-N1



Sumptuary Allowance*-N2






Rent Free Residence*/HRA-N3


Car including maintenance*-N4


Petrol @ - N5




Peons – N6





Medical for Life – N7



Leave Travel Allowance*-N8


Furnishing Allowance – N9

8 L

6 L

Electricity for provided accommodation – N10 


Post Retirement


Maximum Pension + DA

15.8 L

13.5 L

Peon or Cash equivalent


Retirement Age





1. *These are not taxable. According to 23D of the 1958 Act applicable to SC Judges they get ‘Exemption from liability to pay Income-tax on certain perquisites received namely rent-free official residence, conveyance facilities, sumptuary allowance and value of leave travel concession. 

2. N1 - The Department of Justice site does not refer to Dearness Allowance. Understand that it is revised every six months like for others.

3. N2 - Sumptuary Allowance is paid to “compensate for expenses incurred on account of entertaining visitors.”

4. N3 - In Mumbai Judges get flats but elsewhere it is invariably bungalows. All SC Judges get bungalows. If a Judge prefers to stay in own accommodation House Rent Allowance (HRA) is Rs 54,000/ per month.

5. N4 – Type of car could vary across states. Could be Toyota Altis and higher.

6. N5 - Petrol is 200 litres per month or actuals whichever is lower.

7. N6 - Structure for Peons could vary across High Courts.

8. N7 - Medical actuals for life for self, wife and dependant parents.

9. N8 - LTC is fare for self, wife and dependent children, anywhere in India and twice a year.

10. N9 – Furnishing allowance is attached to residential accommodation that a judge is allotted and is subject to some restrictions. It is not taxable and not paid if a judge occupies his own house. 

11. N10 – there is a cap on number of free units provided per year. 


Thus, whilst comparing remuneration of Judges vs. those in private practice compare cost incurred by government and include grossing up for tax free perquisites. Benefit of free medical is realized only later in life.


According to this 2022 report in The Hindu, “On August 26, the Centre amended the Supreme Court Judges Rules the second time in a week to provide chauffeurs and domestic help for retired Chief Justices of India and Supreme Court judges for their entire lifetime.” Plus ceremonial lounge facility at airports for retired CJI, SC judges and Chief Justices of High Courts. According to this 2023 Times Now report the Maharashtra government would give a monthly allowance of Rs 20,000/ towards housekeeping, telephone and driver. 


Beyond all this, there are certain non-monetary benefits enjoyed.


1. Increase in Status in society.

2. High degree of responsibility vested in the opportunity to serve the nation.  

3. Power to effect positive societal change.

4. Enhanced chances of a lucrative post-retirement practice.

5. Unspoken influence in the corridors of power.

6. Access to government guest houses across the state.

7. Job security. Impeachment in India is extremely rare.

8. The range of experience that boosts professional growth.

9. Higher Judiciary is accountable to itself.  


It can be argued that there is uncertainty post retirement. Can retired judges afford the lifestyle they have enjoyed so far? If they are from a smaller town, can they buy a house in the state capital since their children have got used to city life? Comparing notes with retired lieutenant generals might help reduce stress on post retirement uncertainty!


Most become judges in the higher judiciary between 45-55 years of age; so, having achieved success and probably acquired wealth, they could be looking for a deeper purpose to life then. For those who come up the ranks, the above remuneration may be attractive; for other judges, it could be considered inadequate. 


Recently, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court Justice Poonam Bamba said that judges have little work-life balance. With a huge backlog of cases can relate to what she said. Hope the use of technology in the form of the National Judicial Data Grid and proposed simplification of criminal laws improves things.      


A few suggestions 

The salary is revised once in ten years, subsequent to the Pay Commission report. Should it be revised once in five years, given the fast paced changes in the external environment?


There is no system of Annual Increment for Judges. So a HC judge who has joined in 2023 will get the same base pay of Rs 2.25 lakhs as one who joined in 2018. A performer and non-performer judges get the same pay. There has to be an incentive to perform better as it is in the private sector. I am not suggesting performance bonus for the Higher Judiciary.


If an increment system is introduced it needs a Performance Appraisal System and determination of Key Result Areas for each judge. Can the Higher Judiciary, trained in law, take up a Human Resource role? Outsourcing might be difficult given the confidential nature of work?


Also, can the HRA be determined region-wise accounting for varying cost of living?


Should we compare the workload in Indian courts with that in, say, the US whilst deciding remuneration of judges? It is instructive to read senior advocate Birendra Saraf’s views in The Indian Express.


Working in the Higher Judiciary has to be positioned as a long-term career opportunity. This matter requires deeper study, an open mind and being better informed. 



1.PRS Legislative Research Paper on HC and SC (Salaries and Condition of Services) Amendment Bill 2017

2. Life of a Judge – Benefits and Difficulties

3. Perquisites for SC/HC Judges post-retirement

4. Lifetime benefits Business Standard

5. No proposal to increase retirement age of HC/SC Judges

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