Senior Advocate P Wilson today introduced a Private Member Bill to increase the retirement age of High Court judges to 65 years. Presently, High Court judges retire at the age of 62 years, whereas judges of the Supreme Court retire upon reaching the age of 65 years.
In his Bill, Wilson has highlighted that one of the chief causes of the huge case pendency faced in India is a large number of vacancies in High Courts across the country.
“This situation is further worsened by the fact that when judges retire, the appointment of new judges in their place is not immediate”, Wilson’s Bill points out.
Further, it is noted that while the Memorandum of Procedure calls for the process of appointing new judges to fill vacancies to commence six months before the expected date of retirement of High Court judges, “due to various reasons, this process is not completed on time, leading to a large number of vacancies.”
Wilson proposes that the situation can be ameliorated by increasing the retirement age for High Court judges from 62 to 65 years, by bringing an amendment to Articles 217 and 224 of the Constitution. In this regard, it is also recounted,
“When the Constitution was originally enacted, Article 217 (1) fixed the age of retirement of High Court Judges as 60 years. Subsequently, within 13 years. it was realised that the human body and mind does not become so incapacitated at the age of 60 that Judges must retire at that age. Hence by virtue of the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act,1963, the age of retirement was increased to 62 years. From 1963 onwards, the age of retirement has remained at 62.”
While this is the case, it is observed that advancements in science, lifestyle etc. has allowed persons to be functional. well up to the age of 75. Lending credence to these observations, it is pointed out that a large number of retired Chief Justices and Judges of High Courts applied and were granted senior advocate designation in recent years.
“This shows that the Judges upon retirement are keen on continuing to work in the legal field in one capacity or the other. This is due to two reasons:
- The mind of an intellectual who has worked tirelessly as a Judge of the High Court cannot remain idle at age of 62…
- Judges need to continue to work in order to maintain a good standard of living since their pensions are not entirely sufficient to maintain themselves and their families in urban cities.”
It is also noted that internationally, the age of retirement of judges is well above the 62 year age limit in India. Moreover, proposals to raise the retirement age of High Court judges had also been put forward in 2002 by the MN Venketachaliah Committee and in the Parliament in 2019 by the 114th Constitution Amendment Bill (although the bill was not passed). The Chief Justice of India had also mooted the idea to the Union Government, it is noted. Therefore, the Bill proposes,
“… the time has come to increase the age of retirement of judges of the High Court from 62 to 65 years. This would not only help the judicial system but also the public at large, specifically the litigants before the Courts. The judicial system would be greatly benefitted because a person who has a wealth of experience under his or her belt by virtue of a long tenure in the High Court would continue to serve the High Court for a further period of 3 years …
Similarly, the litigant public is also benefitted, since the occurrence of vacancies would be less frequent and consequently, there would be Judges to hear and dispose cases. Such a move would also benefit the Government of the day, since the government would not be frequently embroiled with the process of appointing of new Judges.”
[Read the Bill]