Govt wants to increase HC judges' retirement age

 
Disclosing the changed mind of the Centre, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told Deccan Herald on Monday that this move would help fight the huge number of pending cases in the HCs. It will also arrest the shortage of over 250 judges at the HC level.
The total sanctioned strength of HC judges in the country is 895. However, there will be no change in the retirement age of judges of the Supreme Court, which is 65.

The proposal to increase the retirement age will require an amendment to Article 124(2) of the Constitution. Since it is a Constitution amendment, the Bill will have to be passed with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Thus, the government will have a task on hand as some parties, like the Left, may not be favourably inclined towards it. The BJP may go along with the government but with a rider: it does not want the government to re-appoint the judges soon after their retirement, as it is happening for long.

The Justice Venkatachalaiah Committee, formed to review the working of the Constitution, had suggested that the retirement age of SC judges be increased to 68 years and those of HC judges to 65. The Law Commission and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on law and justice too had made a similar recommendation.

Vacancies

Moily had recently told Parliament that there will be no change in the retirement age of HC or SC judges. There are around 52,000 vacancies in the apex court and about 40 lakh cases in the 21 High Courts besides over 2.7 crore cases in trial courts.

Senior apex court advocate K N Bhat, who has been pressing the government for the increase in HC judges for long, told this newspaper that it was one of the judicial reforms that was badly required.

“It will greatly help in the stability of the important office of the chief justice of HC as at present we see CJs being transferred very frequently. If the amendment is done, the HC judges and CJs would prefer to continue in their posts rather than wanting to move to the SC”.

He added: “It was in 1992 when the SC was empowered with the appointment of HC and SC judges through the system of collegium. The stability in HC will automatically help improve the case disposal rate. It will get the best out of the CJs. Disparity in the retirement age between judges of HC and SC would no longer be there”.

The All India Bar Association supports the move but wants the retirement age of SC judges too be increased. “Increasing the retirement age of HC judges without increasing that of SC judges would create chaos in the judicial administration of the country as judges would prefer to stay back in HCs and not move to the SC,” it said recently.

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