The government is preparing to extend the retirement age of Supreme Court (SC) and High Court (HC) judges to tide over a severe shortage of numbers in the higher judiciary, three people deeply familiar with the development told CNN-News18 on Wednesday.
An amendment of the Constitution is required for the move to fructify.
The retirement age of SC judges will be raised to 67 years from the present 65 and that of HC judges to 64 from the present 62, government sources told the news channel.
The development comes after the parliamentary standing committee on law and personnel, in its report in March, said that to reduce the pendency of cases, the existing vacancies for judges need to be filled up immediately.
The committee, in its several reports, had supported the argument that if judges can work upto 65 years of age in the Supreme Court, there is no rationale in the argument that at 62, a HC judge is too old to continue to work.
Another key factor highlighted by the committee was the life expectancy, which has increased considerably in the last few years. The retirement age in some tribunals is now 70 for chairmen and 65 for members.
The retirement age of judges of Superior Courts in countries such as the United States, UK, Switzerland, South Africa, Denmark, Phillipines is 70 years while in some countries such as, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, etc. judges of Superior Courts retire at 75 years.
Former Solicitor General of India TR Andhiyarujina in a piece dated September 1, 2012 in The Hindu asked for the retirement age to be 70. According to Andhiyarujina, with a larger tenure, judges may acquire more maturity, learning and experience so necessary for a judge. Also, with retirement at 65, a judge may be less anxious about looking for employment after retirement.
If the government is able to press ahead with raising the retirement age, Dipak Misra is expected to continue as the Chief Justice for two more years until 2020.
Misra, appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court on October 10, 2011, became the Chief Justice on August 28 last year. He is due to retire on October 2, 2018, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65.
The tenure of Misra came under a cloud in January when the four next highest-ranking judges in the Supreme Court criticised his distribution of cases and raised concerns about judicial appointments.