Three Former Supreme Court Judges Bat For Uniform Retirement Age In Higher Judiciary
Lawyers outside the Chief Justice of India’s court in New Delhi, India. (Source: Supreme Court of India Website)

Three Former Supreme Court Judges Bat For Uniform Retirement Age In Higher Judiciary

Three former top court judges, including two retired chief justices of India, called for a uniform and a higher retirement age for judges of the higher judiciary to clear India's mounting backlog of cases.

A Supreme Court judge retires at 65 years, while a high court judge demits office at 62.

Former Chief Justices of India Justice MN Venkatachalaiah and Justice RC Lahoti, and former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna said this distinction should be removed.

They were speaking at the virtual launch of former Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran's book 'Anomalies in Law & Justice: Writings Related to Law & Justice'.

Justice Venkatachalaiah said the suggestion for removing this difference was first made in the early '90s at the First Chief Justices Conference. The retirement age of 62 was decided when the average lifespan of a human in India was 27, but today it is 67, he said. Justice Venkatachalaiah suggested that the retirement age of all the judges in the higher judiciary should raised to 68.

Judges leave office at the prime of their maturity even though they continue to be active in other areas such as arbitration after they retire, the three top court judges said.

Fifteen years after my retirement, I can work as an arbitrator, record evidence, hear prolonged arguments and construct my awards. Then why can I not practice as a judge.
Justice RC Lahoti, Former Chief Justice of India

Justice Lahoti said having a common retirement age will stop the "rat race" and address the eroding dignity of the office of the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Justice Srikrishna agreed. All high court judges hope to come to the top court and in some instances they are conscious in their work of what the Supreme Court will say, he said. ''Their judgments get coloured by what the Supreme Court will say. That is erosion of the independence of the judiciary."

The judges also supported the idea of implementing Article 224 that allows appointing acting judges to fill vacancies.

Justice Venkatachalaiah proposed that serving judges of the Supreme Court must be allowed to go to high courts as chief justices and vice versa.

Justice Srikrishna recalled that he was offered to continue in the Supreme Court as an additional judge when he retired but he wanted to serve in the Bombay High Court, which did not materialise.

The panel was moderated by Senior Advocate Arvind Datar. Chief Justice of India Justice NV Ramana, who spoke at the book launch, was present during the discussion.

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