A bill to increase retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 and bring it at par with the retirement age of Supreme Court judges was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The measure is likely to help around 630 judges of the 21 High Courts in the country.
The Constitution (104th Amendment) Bill, 2010 tabled by Law Minister M Veerappa Moily seeks to amend Article 217 and 224 of the Constitution to increase the retirement age of High Court judges. The two articles deal with appointment and retirement age of judges.
A Constitution amendment needs support of two-thirds of the members in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The last time the retirement age of High Court judges was increased was in 1963. The age was then increased from 60 to the present 62 years.
The proposal was first mooted by then Law Minister H R Bhardwaj in April 2008. He had initiated discussion with the opposition on the issue, but lack of political consensus led to the issue being put on the backburner.
"Most of the reasons adduced by the 5th Pay Commission in support of its recommendation for increasing the age of retirement of the central government employees, such as global practices, increase in life expectancy, improved health standards, need for utilisation of experience and wisdom of senior employees could also apply to judges," the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill read.
The bill said increasing the age of retirement by three more years would restrict occurrence of new vacancies on account of superannuation for the next three years during which time the existing backlog in vacancies could be cleared.
"This would have a clear impact on reduction of pendency of cases in the High Courts," the Bill stated.
According to a Law Ministry document on legal and judicial reforms approved by the Union Cabinet in November last year, raising the retirement age of High Court Judges from 62 to 65 years will also aid in elimination of vacancies.
Over 40 lakh cases are pending in the High Courts which are facing a shortfall of 265 judges, as per the latest official data. While the sanctioned strength was 895, the High Courts were working with 630 judges.
According to the Financial Memorandum, the proposal to increase the retirement age does not involve any financial implication as the judges' continuation for three more years would not affect any increase in their salary and allowances.