High Court Judges retirement age is one of the issue of judicial reforms in India. Article 217(1) of the Constitution of India provides that every High Court Judge shall hold office till he attains the age of 62 years.
Initially, the retirement age of High Court judges was 60. It was subsequently by means of the fifteenth amendment in 1963 an amendment was brought under the Constitution and the retirement was increased to 62.
In the Supreme Court the retirement age of judges is 65 (Article 124 of Constitution).
Since a very long time this issue has been raised considering the huge backlog of cases in High Courts, why not the retirement age of High Court Judges be increased.
The Law Commission of India in its 14th report has considered this issue both for the Supreme Court and High Court Judges. In its report the commission has opined that there is no need to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court Judges but the commission recommends that the retirement age of High Court judges should be the same as of Supreme Court judges i.e. 65.
As per the report of the commission, the reason behind the difference of retirement age between the Supreme Court and High Court judges is that the judges of the High Court may not refuse the judgeship of the Supreme Court.
In August 2019, the then Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi while speaking at the foundation stone laying programme of an auditorium in Gauhati High Court said that he has sent a proposal to the Central Government for increasing the retirement age of Judges of High Court. He said that there is no reason to accept this proposal; it will help in filling up the vacancies by freezing the retirement for next 3 years.
The current Chief Justice of India S A Bobde also while speaking at a function in November 2019, said that the Judges are willing to work longer if the retirement age is increased. CJI was replying to the statement of Attorney General KK Venugopal, who said that lawyers are arguing cases vigorously at the age of 70 years, why cant retirement age of judges be increased
The Government brought a bill called The Constitution (114th Amendment) Bill, 2010, proposing to increase the age of High Court Judges from 62 to 65. It was introduced in Lok Sabha on 25 August 2010. On 16 September 2010, the bill was referred to the Standing Committee.
On 09 December 2010, the committee submitted its report recommending that this bill should be passed expeditiously. The committee gave reasons that due to increase in life expectancy, improved health standards, need for utilization of experience and wisdom of senior employees, it is imperative that the retirement age of High Court Judges be increased to 65.
The Committee also noted that some High Court don’t have the infrastructural facility to accommodate the sanctioned strength of Judges. Further the increase in the retirement age of High Court judges will also reduce the competition amongst the Judges to reach the Supreme Court. This will give them a fair tenure to make valuable contributions to dispensation of Justice.
In December 2019, Mr P Wilson, a Rajyasabha Member and Senior Advocate introduced a private member bill to increase the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years. However the bill could not be passed due to obvious reasons that it was a private member and the Government’s bill is already pending.
In India we have the lowest Judge-population ratio i.e. 19.66 Judges per million people, whereas in the UK it is 51, US 107, Canada 75 and Australia 41.
One more benefit of the increase of retirement age is that the Judges will refrain themselves from post retirement assignments too.