Retire judges later: Constitutional court judges are being pensioned off too early. Their services are badly needed

Context: With seven Supreme Court judges retiring this year and over a third of sanctioned high court judges posts lying vacant, Parliament should urgently consider increasing the retirement ages of SC and HC judges from 65 and 62 respectively.

Scarce judicial resources are constantly expended in finding suitable candidates for these top constitutional positions. And with replacements rarely happening concurrently, the pendency burden grows faster.

What is the scale of the problem?

The vacancy problem is more pronounced in High Courts (HCs) where 45% of pending 59 lakh cases are awaiting disposal for over five years.

While the overall vacancy position is 35% in HCs, in big HCs like Allahabad, Calcutta and Patna nearly 50% sanctioned posts lie vacant.

The bizarrely different retirement ages for SC-HC judges may be a colonial legacy, but the UK has progressively increased retirement age for judicial office holders to 75.

Even Article 224A’s option of allowing reappointment of retired HC judges hasn’t been exercised.

What are the benefits of increasing the retirement age of the judges?

Pendency of cases can be dealt effectively if judges retire late, thereby helping crores of citizens awaiting justice in civil and criminal matters.

Judicial independence: Many judges secure positions as judicial members of tribunals and commissions post-retirement. But this strong desire for post-retirement jobs weakens judicial independence vis-à-vis central and state executives. If judges serve till 70 there’s minimal incentive to seek post-retirement avenues.

Attracting the best minds: A higher retirement age can also attract the best minds to the vocation.

– HC collegiums face great difficulty attracting noted lawyers because of the low retirement age of 62 and delayed appointments.

Source: This post is based on the article “Retire judges later: Constitutional court judges are being pensioned off too early. Their services are badly needed” published in The Times of India on 25th Apr 22.

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