Higher court judges retire young in India: SC | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: At a time when justice dispensation by the High Courts are challenged by an unprecedented crisis arising from an unsavoury cocktail of huge pendency of 57 lakh cases and nearly 40% vacancy in Judge strength, the Supreme Court hinted at increasing the retirement age of HC judges.
While deciding to activate a five-decade long dormant Article 224A to green signal appointment of retired HC judges as tenure specified ad hoc judges, a bench of Chief Justice S A bobde and Justices S K Kaul and Surya Kant said the present retirement age of HC judges at 62 years is probably the youngest in the world.
“We may say that broadly, it is amongst the youngest ages of retirement of judges of the apex Court of a state in comparison with other democracies of the world,” the bench said and described the crisis faced by HCs as unprecedented.
What exacerbates the frustrations of litigants is the cold statistics on snail-paced adjudication of cases emerging from the manpower starved HCs and the unabated rush of litigation. Nearly a lakh of civil and criminal cases pending in the HCs are over 30 year-old. More than 1.5 lakh cases are between 20-30 year-old and over 10 lakh pending cases are more than a decade old.
The long gestation period for Judge appointment, which often takes more than six months from the date of recommendation by the High Court Collegium, early retirement at the age of 62 years and the drastic loss of income are the major reasons which dissuade successful lawyers from accepting invitation to become Judges of constitutional courts.
The CJI-led bench said, “The delays in this is a matter of concern as the recommendation of the collegium should not remain pending for a long period of time. The aforesaid process (for appointment of Judges) should be completed at the earliest. We may note that in some of the courts it is a challenge to persuade competent and senior lawyers who may have large practices to accept the position of the judge, and the pendency of their names for a long period of time does little to encourage them.”
The UPA government’s law minister M Veerappa Moily had on August 13, 2010 introduced the Constitution (114 Amendment) Bill for increasing the retirement age of HC judges from present 62 years to 65 years. It was in 1963, that the Constitution was amended to increase the retirement age of HC Judges from 60 to 62 year.
The UPA government had cited “global practices, increase in life expectancy, improved health standards, need for utilisation of experience and wisdom of senior employees, etc” in the statement of objects and reasons to seek to increase the retirement age of HC judges. The Bill could not become law and lapsed.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its report on the Bill said: “It should be appreciated that in most of the developed countries, the retirement age of judges is above 65 years. For example, in the United Kingdom and Canada, the retirement age is 75 years, while for Japan the retirement age is 65 years. As such, in other countries, this is an established practice.”
It said, “Maturity makes a man perfect. One can give his best during this ripe stage of life. An aged and experienced person can give his best and matured opinion/judgment in an easy manner.” The Committee in its recommendations had supported the increase in retirement age of HC judges.
However, it had flagged the issue of long delays in appointment of HC Judges, as the SC did on Tuesday after more than a decade. The Committee felt that with the retirement of judges of HC and SC coming at par, there would be less competition among the HC judges to get elevated to the SC which presently means three years’ additional service.

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