The plea — to raise the retirement age of judges — made by Attorney-General (AG) of India K K Venugopal (pictured) in his speech at a farewell function organised in honor of retiring Supreme Court Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel on July 6, did not get much media attention. According to Venugopal, the present retirement age of 62 for High Court judges and 65 for the apex court was a blow to several judges who did not get enough time on the bench to implement their innovative thoughts.
By default, the retirement age in India in the government and public sectors has been linked to employment opportunities, career progression and in certain cases, like in the case of the apex court, an ‘equal opportunity for all’ to reach the highest level. This convention has ended up in the unenviable situation described by the AG, wherein individuals reaching certain high positions do not get much time to do what they always wanted to do. The low retirement age has also been creating a captive talent pool, trained and prepared in the public sector for recruitment by the private sector.
It is time for a review of the retirement age and the retirement process in the government and the public sector. The first appointment itself could be delinked from age and made for tenures of 10, 20 or 30 years, further extendable by five years at a time, based on the performance and need, subject to fitness tests. Top level appointments — for the High Court and the Supreme Court and for the post of chief justice, chief secretaries in states, heads of statutory bodies and public sector undertakings including public sector banks — could be initially for a tenure of three years extendable on merits. Sector-specific talent pools can also be considered.
M G Warrier Mumbai
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