NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided against a one-year fixed tenure for Chief Justices of High Courts amid concerns that those with less time left before retirement might fail to land the top job despite an impressive track record.
The Department of Justice had proposed a two-year fixed term for High Court chief justices while drafting the revised memorandum of procedure, a document which guides appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
A fixed long tenure, the department felt, would help chief justices concentrate on the administrative side of their duties like improving case management system.
The Ministry of Law, however, reduced the fixed tenure to one year as it thought two years was too long and hence not practical.
Judges are appointed as Chief Justices of High Courts and elevated to the Supreme Court based mainly on their seniority. While retirement age for a Supreme Court judge is 65 years, it is 62 in High Courts.
The issue of fixed tenures, however, came up for discussion at a recent meeting of the Group of Ministers, which is headed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. While some of the members of the Group of Ministers favoured a fixed tenure, others opposed the idea on the ground that those nearing the retirement age of 62 and having less than a year to go may lose out despite an impressive track record. There was also a view that fixed tenure may give a “handle to certain judges to subvert the appointment of others”, sources said.
The Group of Ministers finally decided to remove the fixed tenure clause from the memorandum of procedure.