In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has requested an increment in the retirement age of judges in India to 70 years.
In his letter, Mr. Upadhyay highlights the ever mounting backlog of cases that currently plagues the judiciary, pointing out that currently, more than three crore cases are pending in the country. He attributes this situation to three factors: (i) Lack of judicial infrastructure i.e. lack of district courts, staff etc., (ii) archaic laws, and (iii) incompetent, inexperienced and unaccountable Public Prosecutors, Standing Councils and Government Advocates.
He then points out that the last time the retirement age of High Court Judges was increased was way back in 1963, raising it from 60 to 62 years. He further points out that while a proposal to hike the age was mooted in 2008 by the then Law Minister Mr. H.R. Bharadwaj and a legislation for the same was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2010, it was put on the back burner due to lack of political consensus.
Mr. Upadhyay also cites the observations made by the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personal Public Grievances Law and Justice, to emphasise on the fact that “our finest judges are compelled to retire, instead of continuing to give valuable service to the nation”.
He terms this “forced retirement” to assert that “the bench loses tremendous experience when Judges are forced to retire before their septuagenarian year”. He makes reference to the retirement age for judges in other countries as well, writing, “It is pertinent to state that in developed countries, retirement age of the Higher Court Judges varies from 70-80 years and in some countries, they work for lifetime. For example, Judges retires 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.”
Furthermore, Mr. Upadhyay takes recourse to statistics, noting that the major reason for the backlog of cases is that we have 13 judges per one million people, as against 58 per million in Australia, 75 per million in Canada, 100 per million in United Kingdom, and 130 per million in the United States of America. In this backdrop, he highlights the necessity of implementing his proposal, writing,
“Increase in retirement age is not only necessary to reduce the pendency of cases but also essential to attract and retain best talent in judiciary. To reduce judicial and procedural error, India needs more experienced Judges.”
He, therefore, requests PM Modi to direct the Ministry of Law and Justice to raise the age of retirement of judges of subordinate courts, High court and Supreme Court to 70 years. He also seeks a direction to the Finance Ministry to allocate sufficient funds from the national resources or the Consolidated Fund of India to meet the demands of State Judiciary.