Moily: No decision yet on retirement age of judges

Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily on Saturday said the government is yet to consider the proposal of increasing the retirement age of the judges of the Supreme Court and high courts by three years.

Refuting speculation in a section of the government to enhance the retirement age by three years to 68 years for Supreme Court judges (from 65) and 65 years to the high court judges (from 62), Moily said there was such a move by some members of Parliament and a section of the judiciary. A section of parliamentarians had mooted the idea in order to arrest the ever-increasing gap of 250 judges at the high court level. But raising the age limit will require amendment to Article 124 (2) of the Constitution by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. It is learnt that the opposition parties, including the Left, did not accept the move to amend the Constitution to give the judges another breather of three years.

The Justice Venkatachalaiah Committee to review the working of the Constitution had suggested that the age of the judges of constitutional courts—the Supreme Court and high courts—be increased to 68 years as the retirement age for Supreme Court judges and 65 years for the high court judges.

Tenured posts in US

In the United States there is no age of retirement for federal judges. They are tenured posts. If a federal judge feels that by reason of old age he cannot function, he will receive the last drawn salary as pension for the rest of his life. In the United Kingdom and Canada, judges retire at the age of 75.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, had said in the Constituent Assembly on May 24, 1949, when the provision concerning the age of judges was taken up for consideration: “With regard to judges, and federal court judges especially, we cannot proceed on the lines of the normal administrative services. We require top men in the administrative services. Nevertheless, the type of work that a judge does is somewhat different. It is, in a sense, less physically tiring. Thus a person normally, if he is a judge, does not have to face storm and fury so much as an administrative officer might have to. But at the same, time it is a highly responsible work, and in all countries, so far as I know, age-limits for judges are far higher. In fact there are none at all.’’

Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan is of the opinion that the abolition of the practice of retiring SC and HC judges at the prescribed age would impart greater stability to the legal system. It will also tackle the perennial problem of shortage of judges, he felt. Speaking at the fifth national conference of the association of retired judges at Indore on April 21, 2007, the CJI had said: “Superannuation of SC judges at 65 is a sheer waste of their abilities, expertise and experience, since that’s the age when their intellectual faculties are at their peak”


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