The Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the state government to constitute an independent pay commission, within three months, to fix pay scales of the government employees.

A bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice D.D. Sud expressed surprise that the state has no pay commission of its own. Hearing a bunch of petitions of government employee associations, the bench directed the chief secretary to take steps to have an independent pay commission and listed the matter for next hearing March 21, 2012.

Earlier, the state’s principal secretary (finance), in an affidavit, said the state “by and large follows the Punjab government pay scales but it’s not done blindly and the government of Himachal Pradesh in any particular case may or may not implement a particular pay scale”.

“Himachal is an independent state and only its orders are applicable on its employees. No one can claim a pay scale on the basis of orders issued by the Punjab government,” the affidavit said. The court observed the state should have a pay commission so that the pay scales are appropriately fixed or rationalised.

The total expenditure in the state’s budget for 2011-12 has been pegged at Rs.16,708.47 crore with salaries accounting for Rs.5,881.66 crore, interest payments Rs.2,150.58 crore, loan repayments Rs.960.84 crore and pensions Rs.2,210 crore.

During budget speech, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that out of the total budget, only 32.95 per cent would be utilised for development activities, the rest would go towards meeting the liabilities committed on account of salaries, pensions, interests and loans.

Pay scale parity with the Punjab Govt., goes back when hill areas of undivided Punjab were merged with Himachal on November 1, 1966, the state government employees had gone on a 35-day strike in 1970, demanding Punjab pay scales and ever since the state was implementing the scales.