22 Jun The retirement age of judges
The retirement age of judges – Today Current Affairs
CONTEXT : The age of retirement of Supreme Court of India judges is to be increased to 67 years, not immediately but in a couple of months.
Today Current Affairs
With increase in the age of retirement-
- Current CJI may continue for a long ex. Justice U.U. Lalit
- Next CJI may take a long time to take the office ex. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud
Since the next Lok Sabha election is due by May 2024. Therefore, much hangs on age.
DEVELOPMENTS : The Hindu Analysis
Judges, like other men and women of law, are professionals who have long working spans and are capable of good useful work well into their 60s. Age does not wither them easily.
The obvious negative fallout of a differential retirement age simply is intense pressure and competition to make it to the top court and thus get three more years. If this is done away with, several judges of mettle would prefer to be Chief Justices and senior judges in the High Courts exercising wide power of influence rather than being a junior judge on a Bench of the Supreme Court.
We can take a leaf from making the appointment of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Only five of its 17 Chief Justices served earlier as an Associate Justice, the rest came fresh to the Court. It is part of a system designed to relieve excessive power and pressure
A culture of service is needed : The Hindu Analysis
Several focus on arbitrations and amass considerable fortunes with high fees and multiple sittings. Indeed, some say that they make more money in one year of arbitration than in their entire judicial careers.
- A minority of judges devote themselves to public service; sadly, this is a very small minority.
- Another lot are appointed to various constitutional posts and tribunals and commissions. The Hindu Analysis
- It would be worthwhile reform to create a cadre of public service for retired judges and from this pool make appointments to the constitutional and statutory posts and special assignments.
- Such judges should receive the full pay and the facilities of a judge of the Supreme Court for life.
Obviously they should be barred from arbitrations; it should further be provided that if any judge is unwilling to be a part of the cadre and instead wishes to pursue arbitrations post retirement, then senior positions on the Supreme Court such as the membership of the collegium ought not to be available for them.
Serve Equally : The Hindu Analysis
Article 124 merely states that the President will appoint every judge of the Supreme Court, and this includes the Chief Justice, and each of these judges shall hold office until they attain the age of 65 years.
- The requirement about appointing the seniormost judge to be the CJI is a sleight of hand devised in the Second Judges case (1993) and the consequent Memorandum of Procedure which is an obvious and naked usurpation of the President’s power and a blatant attempt to rewrite the Constitution.
- It has no constitutional legitimacy.
- Human frailties are human frailties, and judges are no exception much as they may consider themselves to be. The Hindu Analysis
- There are sufficient examples in India’s judicial history of aberrational judicial conduct with the Holy Grail in view, as also refusing to hear contentious cases which may provoke the executive red or orange light.
- Indeed, there is no good reason why any one particular person should have a vested interest in the top job, and we are better served by eliminating such expectation.
Let all serve equally under the constitutional throne for the entire length of their tenure.
QUESTION REMAINS : The Hindu Analysis
Who then shall be primus inter pares, the first among equals?
For the court needs a leader. Go back to the Constitution again; among its catchpool for judges of the Supreme Court are judges of the High Court, senior advocates and distinguished jurists.
Since we want to keep serving sitting Supreme Court judges inviolate from all but the purest influences, let us say that when a serving CJI retires, his successor should be the best reputed Chief Justice of a High Court who has proved himself worthy both in judicial office as well as administrative leadership and has those qualities of heart and head which mark a good leader.
Case of M.C. Chagla and P.V. Rajamannar, two of our most eminent judges, retired as Chief Justices of the Bombay High Court and the Madras High Court, can’t be forgotten.
- The appointee should have a clear three year term — not the truncated weeks and months that some CJIs now get. The Hindu Analysis
- But he should not function as the primus super pares as many CJIs nowadays do — calling the shots and having their unfettered way.
- He should instead function in a true collegiate manner, especially in regard to the roster of allotment of cases, especially the sensitive ones, and appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts and other important matters of judicial and administrative importance. The Hindu Analysis
- Such a combination of CJI so chosen working with senior ranking colleagues will make collegiate functionality both a natural course and an imperative necessity.
TO CONCLUDE : It is high time that we do away with the disparity between the retirement ages of High Court and Supreme Court judges. High Court judges now retire at 62 and Supreme Court judges at 65.
We should have a culture of public service for senior judges, and those who do not fit in such culture should not be a part of senior ranks.