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Synopsis: Uniform retirement ages for HC & SC judges is required to reflect the contemporary needs.
Today, SC is one of the prestigious institutions in India. Elevation to which is also seen as a matter of great prestige. There is a debate going on between experts to increase the retirement age of High Court (HC) judge’s equivalent to Supreme Court (SC) i.e from 62 to 65yrs.
What are the historical reasons for having different retirements ages?
Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform set up before the 1935 act said that different retirement age was necessary to secure the services of the judges from HCs.
So, the Government of India Act 1935 established the Federal Court of India, which was the predecessor of the present Supreme Court of India. It laid down the retirement age for judges of the Federal Court at 65 years and 60 years for judges of HCs.
Why there is a difference in retirement age justified earlier?
In the opinion of Abhinav Chandrachud, an HC judge, during the age of 60 senior judges of HCs would be already in an established position. So, they would not be ready to renounce the rest of their tenure for the junior position in the newly established Federal Court.
How the government tried to increase the retirement age of HC Judges?
14th Law Commission in 1958 said that rules could be established to make it a duty for judges of HCs to accept the offer to serve at SC.
Later, the Constitutional amendment in 1963 increased the retirement age of HC judges to 62.
In 2010, another constitutional amendment bill was introduced in Parliament to increase the retirement age of HC judges from 62 to 65 but got lapsed.
What should be done?
Presently, on average, HC judges are being appointed at the age of 51. This provides them with a little over a decade before retiring.
The standing committee on the 2010 bill, pointed out that increasing the retirement age would impact both the vacancies and the high pendency of cases.
The increased retirement age will allow them to adjust according to the new position and discharge their duties for a longer duration.
Source: This post is based on the article “Let HC Judges retire when SC Judges Do, at 65” published in Times of India on 8th October 2021.