Tuesday, January 06, 2009

SUPERANNUATION AGE OF JUDICIAL OFFICERS


SURVEY OF THE PAST :
1. In the past, the age of retirement of judges in the judicial service in every state was linked to that of the State Government Employees / Central Government Employees.
2. Till 31-3-1938, the normal age of retirement of Central Government Employees was 55 years. Employees could, however, be retained in service upto 60 years depending on their being physically fit and mentally alert.
3. The First Central Pay Commission set up by the Central Government in 1946 recommended 58 years for superannuation of Central Government employees. But this recommendation was not accepted by the Government on the ground, inter-alia, that the majority of persons retiring at the age of 55 were not capable of rendering efficient service; that their replacement at the age of 55 by younger men would serve the interest of efficiency better and that a retirement age should be fixed which would release men at the age when they would still be fit to render service to the country in other spheres of their choice.
4. In 1953, the question was reconsidered, but the earlier decision to retain the age of retirement at 55 was reaffirmed. The Government, however, decided that in view of shortages of trained personnel, the extension of service beyond 55 years might be given liberally on the ground of public interest particularly in the case of scientific and technical personnel.
5. In 1958, the question of retirement age was again considered in view of the continuing shortage of trained manpower. The Government did not extend the age of superannuation, but laid down the criteria for grant of extension and re-employment of technical and scientific personnel. It was decided that re-employment or extension might be granted upto two years at a time.
6. The Second Central Pay Commission examined the question of retirement age in some greater detail. It compared the data on life expectancy at birth and the retirement age, and also the data on general mortality and survival rate of pensioners, in comparison with the age of superannuation of Government servants in some foreign countries. The Commission also took note of the opinions expressed by eminent persons, economists, retired public servants, heads of departments, etc. After considering the various aspects, the Commission recommended an upward revision to 58 years. It mainly relied upon the fact that the life expectancy in India has improved, and there was greater need of scientific and technical personnel in Government service to meet the requirements of the Third Plan, then on the anvil.
7. Initially, the said recommendation was not accepted by the Government, since it was felt that raising the age of superannuation would reduce employment opportunity.
8. In 1962, the matter was again brought to the attention of the Government. The Government then took into consideration several factors like shortage of experienced and trained manpower; insignificant impact on employment opportunity (viz., of less than one per cent of the total volume of additional employment needed for the educated unemployed during the Third Plan period); the higher expectation of life and the continued physical fitness of Government employees after retirement. The Government decided to raise age of retirement from 55 to 58 years with effect from 1st December 1962. The age of retirement for Group D category of employees and workshop employees in the Central Government was maintained at 60 years.
9. The Third and Fourth Central Pay Commissions received many representations for upward revision of age of retirement to 60 years. But it did not favour the revision on the ground, inter-alia, that it would reduce the employment opportunities for fresh graduates and technical persons in Government service. They emphasised the need for injecting fresh blood and fresh knowledge for the efficient working in government.
10. All the State Governments save State of Kerala have followed similar age of retirement to their respective employees and also extending the same to Judicial officers in their states.
11. When the matter thus stood, the All India Judges' Association filed a writ petition1 before the Supreme Court seeking several reliefs including the upward revision of retirement age. It was contended before the Court therein that there is a marked distinction between the Civil Service and the Judicial Service, both in the qualification and nature of work. The age of superannuation of the Judicial Officers should be more than that of civil servants in as much as the basic qualification for recruitment to the judicial service requires every Officer to have in the minimum a bachelor's degree in law which is acquirable after becoming a graduate. But for normal civil service an ordinary graduate could apply and secure a job and that is not possible in judicial service which requires further period of three years to acquire the basic qualification. This inevitably would take minimum age for entry into Judicial Service higher than the minimum age for entry into Civil Service. It was urged that a distinction has to be maintained in the age of retirement for the Judicial Officers from that of the Civil Service and it is wrong to apply the same rule for both the categories.
12. Considering these and other factors, the Supreme Court observed that the age of retirement of Judicial Officers in subordinate courts should be raised from 58 to 60 years.

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