House panel recommends raising retirement age of HC judges to 65

In the backdrop of a large number of vacancies of judges in High Courts and pendency of cases, a parliamentary panel has recommended raising the age of retirement of judges from 62 years to 65 years for uniformity in the Supreme Court and High Courts.

“The Members of the Committee expressed that there is a need to revisit the age of retirement of High Court judges to compensate for the large number of vacancies existing in High Courts,” said the department-related standing committee on personnel, public grievances and law and justice, in its report on demands for grants for the law ministry, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

The committee noted that in the Supreme Court of India and High Courts, 12 per cent (approximately) and 39 per cent (approximately) posts of judges respectively are vacant. “While discussing the issues of vacancy positions of judges and pendency of cases in the country, members of the committee felt that the huge pendency of cases at all levels of the judicial hierarchy can be dealt with by increasing the number of working days of judges”, said the committee.

The committee said it is of the view that the justice delivery system in the country is moving towards a stage, where both vacant posts of judges and pendency of cases are increasing year after year and this state of affairs may erode the trust of public in the justice delivery system.

“The Committee is of the view that when Judges of Supreme Court can work up to 65 years of age, there is no rationale in retiring the High Court Judges at 62, and therefore, reiterates and recommends the Department to raise the age of retirement of High Courts judges from 62 to 65 years so that there is uniform age of retirement in both Supreme Court and High Courts”, said the report.

In High Courts, as against the approved strength of 1080 Judges, only 661 are in position with 419 vacancies. Further, there are 4.34 crore cases pending in country, which includes 3.77 crore in subordinate courts, 57 lakh (approximately) in High Courts and 66,000 (approximately) in the Supreme Court as on February 28, 2021.

The committee noted that against the target of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSC), only 609 FTSC were functional as on December 31, 2020, leading to a shortfall of over 40 per cent. The committee, accordingly, recommended expediting the establishment of the remaining FTSC.