Judges in Indian courts are actors of the judicial administration in India. There are various levels of judiciary in India, each having distinct powers and jurisdiction on them. There is a strict hierarchy of courts in India, and every judicial organ has to respect the same. Appointment and Retirement age of judges is different in various levels of the judiciary.
The Supreme Court of India (Appointment and the Retirement age of Judges)
According to Article 124 of the Constitution of India, every judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President after consultation with such Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court in the States, as the President may deem necessary. The Article also provides that in case of appointment of a judge other than the CJI, the CJI must be consulted.
The Article further stipulates for further conditions required to become a judge at the Supreme Court in India:-
- Citizenship of India, and
- Has been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court or two more High Courts in succession; or
- Has been for at least ten years an advocate of a High Court or two more such Courts in series; or
- He or she is a distinguishing jurist in the opinion of the President.
The retirement age for a Supreme Court judge is 65 years.
The High Courts (Appointment and the Retirement age of Judges) –
The procedure for appointment of judges in the High Courts has been enshrined under Article 217 of the Constitution of India. The article says that the President of India shall appoint every Judge of the High Court after consulting the Cheif Justice of India, the Governor of the State. In the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned.
The Article further stipulates for further conditions required to become a High Court judge –
- Citizenship of India, and
- Has been for at least ten years held a judicial office in India; or
- Has been for at least ten years been an advocate in a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession.
The retirement age for a High Court judge is 62 years.
Retirement age of Judges: Needs to increase –
As pointed out, the retirement age for a Supreme Court judge is 65 years, whereas, the retirement age for a High Court judge is 62 years. Their respective State Governments determine the age of retirement of District Court judges under special service rules.
The retirement age of judges in India as specified in the Constitution of India has been subject to intense debate in India. A bill is pending in the Parliament (114th Amendment Bill, 2010) which proposes to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65. However, since the bill is still being debated in the Parliament, it has no legal effect. Similarly, the Venkatachalliah Committee, which was formed to review the working of the Constitution of India, suggested increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 65 to 68.
The reason such a proposal is made is due to –
- Facilitate the judges excel in their services like their counter-part judges in the foreign jurisdictions. This will bring the Indian judicial system to a global standard.
- Several senior lawyers with requisite expertise and experience decline to accept judge-ship due to the lower retirement age of 62, especially in the High Courts. By an enhanced age, this problem could be done away with as advocates would have greater incentive to forego their legal practice and function in the role of judges.
- Further, the relatively early retirement age in India is often linked to the declining quality of judicial service and the inability of a judge to properly effectuate the stipulated judicial work-load.
Overall, the proposals mention that such issues could be taken care of if the retirement age of the judges would be increased.
If we compare the retirement age of our judges with foreign jurisdictions, there is a clear divide.
For example, the retirement age for Supreme Court judges in the United States isn’t there. The retirement age is 70 for judges of the High Court of Australia. The retirement age of judges of the Supreme Court of Canada is 75. In the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the retirement age is 75, while the Constitutional Court of South-Africa has a retirement age of 70 or after 12 years of the services of the judge. (T.R. Andhyarujina, The Age of Judicial Reform, The Hindu, September 1. 2012)
The issue of the retirement age of judges is an important topic. It is important that the judges of our country can give their services until they can. Therefore, it is important to learn from our foreign counterparts in this regard and increase the retirement age of judges. Justice is delivered through the courts and judges are the ones behind it. It is terrible to lose sound quality judges at ages of 62 and 65 because some of them can continue longer if the law allowed them to. Also, junior judges can never replace experience and the legacy of the retired judges. The pendency of such a significant number of cases is perhaps another reason why the retirement age should be increased, to at least 70 years. Justice can only come from an impartial and robust democracy and an independent judiciary and its independent actors (judges).