New Delhi: A BJP leader has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the retirement age of judges of high court and Supreme Court to 70 years to tide over the case delays in judiciary.
As six more judges are set to retire this year, Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay wrote to PM in an apparent bid to avoid the, as he calls them, “forced retirements”.
During the first week of the post-summer vacation period, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel will attain superannuation on July 6. The next to retire will be Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, whose tenure ends on October 2.
Two other members of the Collegium – Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan Lokur – will retire towards the fag end of the year, on November 29 and December 30 respectively.
The letter mainly harps on case pendency in India and highlights how “more than three crore cases are pending in Courts, which are just lingering along and not reaching their logical conclusion".
The advocate has argued that with the present retirement at 65, “the bench loses tremendous experience when judges are forced to retire before their septuagenarian year".
Upadhyay has also highlighted the international norm where judges do work beyond the years stipulated in India.
“Judges retire at the age of 75 years in United Kingdom and Canada and at the age of 70 years in Australia, Belgium and Norway and work for lifetime in United States, Russia, New Zealand and Iceland, subject to physical and mental fitness,” reads the letter.
The last increase in retirement age of the High Court judges was made in 1963, when it was raised from 60 years to 62 years. The proposal to hike the age further was mooted in 2008 by the then Law Minister HR Bhardwaj.
The Union Cabinet gave its nod for legislation to raise the retirement age of High Court and Supreme Court Judges in 2010. However, due to lack of political consensus, it was put on the backburner.
Even the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personal Public Grievances Law and Justice had referred to the problem caused by early retirement of the judges. “The result is that our finest judges are compelled to retire, instead of continuing to give valuable service to the nation,” stated the report.
Another reason why an increase in the retirement age of judges has been sought is so that judiciary does not take “320 years to clear backlog of cases”.
“The Indian Judiciary would take 320 years to clear the backlog of about 31.28 million cases pending in various courts in India. The reason for backlog of cases pending is inadequate judge strength which is 13.05 judges per one million people, as against Australia 58 per million in Canada's 75, the United Kingdom 100 and the United States of America 130 per million,” reads the letter.
However, there has been criticism too around this proposition as it results in judges expecting to be elevated to a higher role waiting for a longer time than currently now as vacancies would arise later with any increase in retirement of judges.