Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

Raise SC strength, retirement age of HC judges, CJI asks PM

In News

  • The Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to raise the retirement of High Court judges as 65 years and to increase the strength of Supreme Court.
  • The CJI also requested for giving tenure appointments to retired SC and HC judges as per Articles 128 and 224A of the Constitution respectively in order to tackle the issue of mounting case arrears.

Retirement age of judges:

  • Article 124(2): The retirement age of Supreme Court Judges is 65.
  • Article 224(3): The retirement age of High Court Judges is 62

Note: Section 4 of the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, amended the retirement age of a high court judge from the earlier 60 years to 62 years

  • Raising the retirement age will require a Constitutional amendment.

News Summary

Pending Cases in Courts

  • There are more than 43 lakh cases pending in the 24 High Courts of India and approx 59 thousand pending cases in Supreme Court.
  • One of the prime reason for growing of pending cases in High Courts is shortage of HC judges
  • At present, 399 posts, or 37% of sanctioned judge-strength, are vacant which needs to be filled immediately.
  • There were 26 cases pending for 25 years, 100 cases for 20 years, 593 cases for 15 years and 4,977 cases for 10 years in Supreme Court.
  • Inadequate judge strength prevented the CJI from constituting the required number of five-judge constitution benches to adjudicate cases involving substantial questions of law or interpretation of constitutional provisions.

CJI suggestions:

  • CJI thus suggested the retirement age of HC judges should be raised by three years, which would help in improving the vacancy position and consequently reducing pendency of cases.
  • This would also be in consonance with the (repeated) recommendations made by parliamentary standing committees.
  • The proposal suggested will ensure continued availability of more experiences judges for a longer tenure

Recommendations regarding increase in retirement age

  • In 2010, Parliamentary Committee in its 39th Report presented in both the Houses of Parliament that Government should immediately bring forward a proposal to raise the retirement age of Judges of High Courts from 62 to 65 to be at par with the retirement age of Judges of the Supreme Court without  any  further
  • In 2016, a Parliamentary committee recommended increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges and fixing a “minimum tenure” for the Chief Justice of India and chief justices of high courts to ease shortage.
  • Also, in 2018, the parliamentary standing committee on law and personnel recommended that the retirement age of SC judges be raised to 67 years from the present 65 and that of HC judges to 65 from the present 62.
  • The National Commission also recommended to review the working of Constitution for increase in retirement age of SC and HC judges,

Strength of Supreme Court Judges

  • In 1988, the judge strength of the SC was increased from 18 to 26, and later in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution.
  • The strength of the Supreme Court, which is 31 now, is fixed by law made by the Parliament as per Article 124(1).
  • The total sanctioned strength of Supreme Court is 31 (30 + 1), which includes 30 Supreme Court Judges and 1 Chief Justice of India (CJI). The length of their term is from their joining till they retire at the age of 65.
  • The strength can be increased by way of parliamentary legislation.

Article 128

  • Article 128 talks about attendance of retired Judges at sittings of the Supreme Court.
  • With the consent of the President, the Chief Justice of India may at any time, request any person who has held the office of judge Supreme Court or of the Federal Court or who has held the office of a High Court and is duly qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court to sit and act as a judge of the Supreme Court (with his consent).
  • Allowances for such a person will be determined by the President.
  • Every such person have all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of, but shall not otherwise be deemed to be a judge of that court.

Article 224 (A)

  • With the consent of the President, the Chief Justice of a High Court for any State may at any time, request any person who has held the office of judge of that court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a judge of the High Court for that State (with his consent).
  • Allowances for such a person will be determined by the President.
  • Every such person have all the jurisdiction, powers and privileges of, but shall not otherwise be deemed to be a judge of that High Court.

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