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"By The Time He Settles Down, It Is Time To Retire", There Should Be A Minimum Tenure Of 3Yrs For CJI: AG

Radhika Roy
21 Nov 2019 4:24 PM GMT
By The Time He Settles Down, It Is Time To Retire, There Should Be A Minimum Tenure Of 3Yrs For CJI: AG
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"It is a matter of concern that the Chief Justices have only a year or so for the purpose of their functioning as a Chief Justice. I ask myself, what is it that the Chief Justice can do by way of reforms? By the time he settles down, it is time to retire. He is unable to serve any reform and ensure that it is carried through. There should be at least 3 years as a minimum tenure for a CJI." 


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Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday suggested that there should be a minimum tenure of three years for the Chief Justice of India.

He was speaking at the function organised by Supreme Court Bar Association to felicitate new Chief Justice of India Justice SA Bobde.


AG commented that the swearing-in ceremony was like the rebirth of a new Supreme Court.



"We know that you are kind-hearted, courteous and concerned, and therefore, all of us at the Bar, especially the junior members, will be able to succeed in appearing before you. At the same time, we are looking forward to the reforms that we know you have in mind, both for the justice delivery system and the lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court of India".



The Attorney-General supported the demand of the SCBA to develop more chambers for the lawyers. Additionally, he brought to the forefront the two main issues afflicting the Bar as well as the Bench. Firstly, the overcrowding of the Supreme Court was delved into:



"Why is it that the courts are so crowded? There's no space to sit, relax, read the papers, get ready and then come to the court when they are called. And because there is no space, they come inside the courts. It is so crowded, the corridors; I'm sure all of you judges have seen what is happening. I myself have been subjected to an elbow or two put into my stomach. Is this to be Court of Justice? The Apex Court of the land? All of you, specially the Hon'ble Chief Justice, should apply his mind to see what should be done for the purpose of saving us from the crowd".



Secondly, the Attorney-General, as a member of the Bar, brought up the immensely important issue regarding the tenure of a judge. Interestingly, he suggested a minimum tenure of 3 years for a Chief Justice of India.



"It is a matter of concern that the Chief Justices have only a year or so for the purpose of their functioning as a Chief Justice. I ask myself, what is it that the Chief Justice can do by way of reforms? By the time he settles down, it is time to retire. He is unable to serve any reform and ensure that it is carried through. There should be at least 3 years as a minimum tenure for a CJI." 



The Attorney-General commented on how the principle of seniority was fortunately still followed by the Collegium. Post the landmark judgement of Keshavnanda Bharati, four of the senior-most judges who had decided against the government, had been superseded. Similarly, post-ADM Jabalpur, Justice Khanna was superseded. 



"That was the last straw in the camel's back. The Bar then vowed to never allow the senior-most judge to be superseded and give this power of arbitrariness to the government, and I'm speaking as a lawyer here." 


On the basis of the above, the Attorney-General entreated the Collegium to keep this factor in mind while fixing the seniority and appointing a judge. He also observed that there was a need to increase the retirement age of judges of the SC and the HCs.



"Secondly, the age of 65 for an SC judge and 62 for an HC judge is fairly insufficient. This was something that was fixed 20 years back or so. Today, you see lawyers in their 70s-80s vigorously arguing cases. Why should not the judge also have a period of time up to at least 70, if not 68. As far as HC judges are concerned, they should have the same age of retirement as SC judges. They will at least have the confidence that they will retire gracefully." 



He concluded his speech by stating his belief that accommodating the aforementioned suggestions would entail the overhaul of the justice delivery system and guarantee its greatness. 


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