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Age Of Retirement Must Increase For All, But Should Be Uniform For Judges Of Supreme Court And High Court Judges: Suggest Former SC Judges

Mehal Jain
27 Jun 2021 6:13 AM GMT
Age Of Retirement Must Increase For All, But Should Be Uniform For Judges Of Supreme Court And High Court Judges: Suggest Former SC Judges
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Saturday witnessed an interesting panel discussion featuring 4 former Supreme Court judges- Justices B. N. Srikrishna, M. N. Venkatachaliah, R. C. Lahoti and R. V. Raveendran- circling around two 'anomalies in law and justice'- Delays in disposal of cases, and Technology and the law.The discussion transpired that the launch of the book "Anomalies in Law & Justice: Writings Related to...

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Saturday witnessed an interesting panel discussion featuring 4 former Supreme Court judges- Justices B. N. Srikrishna, M. N. Venkatachaliah, R. C. Lahoti and R. V. Raveendran- circling around two 'anomalies in law and justice'- Delays in disposal of cases, and Technology and the law.

The discussion transpired that the launch of the book "Anomalies in Law & Justice: Writings Related to Law & Justice" by Justice Raveendran. The book was released by Chief Justice N. V. Ramana. The discussion was moderated by senior advocate Arvind Datar.
Delay in disposal of cases and the rising pendency- Increasing the age of retirement of judges, appointment of additional judges
Justice Lahoti: As regards extending the retirement age from 62 to 65 for High Court judges, in my opinion, the answer is yes. And not just 'yes', it is a must. If we increase the age of retirement of the judges of the High Courts, it will serve two purposes- they will have an active, experienced judge at the prime of his maturity who continues to dispense justice. 15 years after my retirement, I can work as an arbitrator, I can hear arguments, examine documents and give awards, so why can't I be a judge? The Age of retirement must increase for all but it must be uniform for the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court. The second thing is that if the age of retirement is the same, then a lot of red tapism will stop and the dignity of the office of the Chief Justice of the High Court will be restored, which is eroding day by day!
Justice Srikrishna: I agree with brother Justice Lahoti. I have noticed, both at the bar and then as a judge of the High Court and as a judge of the Supreme Court, that most of the High Court Chief Justices, whichever place they are in, they turn towards the north, hoping that they will end up in the court. Their judgements get coloured by what the Supreme Court wants instead. There is a total erosion of judicial independence! As a judge, you decide as per what your judicial conscience tells you! And if the Supreme Court says you are wrong, then you are wrong! You leave it at that! But to always try and please somebody, that is very oppressive! Three more years will help the High Court judges feel more valuable. A Calcutta High Court judge recently said that the High Courts are as much a constitutional court as the Supreme Court and not a subordinate court. Unfortunately, this feeling is gone because of this kind of disparity.
Justice Venkatachaliah: It is a matter of great satisfaction that this is the view I expressed at the first conference of the Chief Justices in 1993 that all judges must retire at the same age, and this age must not be 65 but 68. And why are you retiring judges at 62? That was for when the lifespan of human beings in India was 27 years! It is 67 years now! And judges are well kept, well disciplined people! They live long...This is a matter of serious implications. All Chief Justices of the High Courts must be treated as judges of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of India must ask Supreme Court judges to go and work as Chief Justices of High Courts and ask High Court judges to come and work at the Supreme Court for a term. While this may not be practical in implementation, the simpler thing is that the age of retirement is increased and made the same for both! That will be an attraction for the eminent lawyers of this country to join the bench. In my tenure, I had asked several of them to take up the post at the Supreme Court and all of them declined!
At this, Justice Saikrishna commented, "We are all oppressed about the arrears, whether in the Gujarat or the Bombay or the Calcutta High Court. When I was about to retire, the CJI asked me if I would want to work at the Supreme Court as an additional judge for two years. Since I really had to go back to Bombay because of some personal reasons, I asked the CJI if I could be an additional judge in the Bombay High Court. He said, 'You will become the junior-most judge there'. I said, 'I am intelligent, I am fit and I am doing work! How does it matter?'. Now, 15 best years of my life I have given to private parties, doing arbitration for a handful of silver! I could have done this for the institution which I came from, regardless of the salary! There is nobody in the High Court who did not know me and they would have given me equal respect, even if I would be the junior most or otherwise!"
"When I was a lawyer, Fali Nariman and Soli Sorabjee were offered to work as ad hoc judges of the city civil court but they did not accept. So these are good suggestions and somebody must do this kind of radical thinking, otherwise, we will not solve the problem...I made an offer, my offer was not accepted, and so I came back here and spend my time doing arbitration for money, time which I could have utilised for doing work for the High Court", he said.
Justice Lahoti also asserted that if the age of retirement for the judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court becomes the same and the years increase, the Chief Justices of High Courts would "stop taking rounds of Delhi" and there will be the option of choosing the best, de hors the seniority. "I am telling you this with confidence that they will not be willing to come to the Supreme Court, they will have to be persuaded!", he said.
As regards the recent Supreme Court judgment in Lok Prahari providing for the appointment of ad hoc judges in the High Courts under Article 224A, the judge said that while 224A is a fantastic idea, it should be utilised in such a way that rather than calling upon the retired judges, the consent of the sitting judges, who are good and deserving, should be taken that they will continue to act as additional judges of the court until the vacancies can be filled up.
"For 224A also, the appointment is done by the President. But if we can persuade the President, the government, the Executive to make appointments under 224A, then why not new appointments? I would suggest that the Chief Justice of India would consider why the judges of the Supreme Court and CJI are reluctant to talk to the Executive. What is wrong if two constitutional functionaries have a dialogue from time to time? From newspapers, I learned that there are 50% vacancies lying in High Courts because many recommendations made by the Supreme Court are hanging with the government. Why should not the two constitutional functionaries have a dialogue and sort out these issues? The new recommendations which are pending for a long time are to be sorted out by dialogue and not just by writing letters", suggested the judge.
Justice Raveendran: The age of retirement may be 65 or 68, but the benefit of experience which is available by extending the age of retirement should not be restricted or limited only to the Supreme Court judges and the High Court judges but it should be extended to the subordinate judiciary also. We have 35 Supreme Court judges, 1080 High Court judges and 22,000 subordinate judges who also gain a lot of experience by having worked for 20 or 25 years. When they are at their zenith, why send them away at 58 or 60? Why not make it 62? It need not be the same as High Court or Supreme Court judges but when we are considering increasing the age of retirement of higher judiciary, we should also consider the corresponding increase in subordinate judiciary, which will make it more attractive for people to join.

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