Fixing 58 years cannot be faulted with, says Bench

The Madras High Court Bench here has rejected a petition to declare unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary a legal provision that requires State government employees to retire from service on their attaining the age of 58, and not 60 years as followed by the Centre.

Dismissing the petition filed by a government servant from Thanjavur district, Justice K. Ravichandra Baabu said: “It could be seen that fixation of maximum length of service is undoubtedly a policy decision of the government, and such fixation cannot be faulted.”

He also said: “Such an exercise [of fixing the age of retirement] is within the domain of the legislature, and it is not proper for courts to put the conflicting claim in the sensitive judicial scale and decide the issue by finding out which way the balance tilts.”

The judge said fixing of an upper age limit for retirement was “absolutely” a policy decision of the government, so the court could not interfere in such decisions by exercising its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.

The petitioner, J.V. Rajasekaran, wanted the court to strike down Rule 56(1)(a) of the Fundamental Rules, which states that every government servant should retire on the afternoon of the last day of the month, in which he attains the age of 58, but for certain exceptions.

He said the provision was arbitrary since similarly placed employees of the Central government were allowed to serve until they attained the age of 60. He said it was in violation of the fundamental right to equality guaranteed under the Constitution.

Mr. Justice Baabu recalled that the Supreme Court had rejected a similar plea for increasing the age of retirement from public service while dismissing a case filed by the Nagaland Senior Government Employees Welfare Association in 2010. Then the court had said: “What the Constitution guarantees for the citizens is equality of opportunity under the employment of the government and prohibition of discrimination between its employees, but there is no provision in the Constitution that restricts retirement from public employment with reference to age.”