Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Ajit Prakash Shah delivers lecture

Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Ajit Prakash Shah on Saturday suggested that the retirement age for Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court be made 65 years with no post-retirement assignments thereafter.

Delivering a lecture organised by the Nani Palkhiwala Foundation and Govind Swaminadhan Trust here, Mr. Shah said some judges, while nearing their retirement, started looking for jobs that were in the hands of the Executive. Wondering whether it was fair to allow a judge to take up a job after retirement, he suggested that the age of retirement be made 65 years.

“Thereafter no further assignments…you stop at that. This is the only way of ensuring that there is no unwarranted interference of the Executive under the garb of providing these post-retirement assignments,” he said.

Saying that corruption had spread its tentacles beyond the conventional forms of bribery, he said an equally vicious form of corruption arose out of the interaction between the Judiciary and Executive, as well as from the relationship between the Judiciary and the legal profession.

“For example, the political patronage that a Judge acquires through his office, a promotion, preferential treatment or the promise of a plum posting after retirement can give rise to corruption…frequent socialising with particular members of the legal profession, Executive or Legislature or with litigants is almost certain to raise suspicions that the Judge is susceptible to undue influence in the discharge of his duties.”

Stating that the lecture was not to venture into the rhetorical diatribe against judicial institutions as it was neither justified nor useful, Mr. Shah said his concerns emanated from his belief that existing systems were not working and they threatened the very legitimacy of the Judiciary.

To restore public confidence in the judicial institution, the Judiciary should pay heed to the growing demands for judicial accountability. There was also an unprecedented emphasis on the need to combat corruption. It would no longer be prudent to turn a blind eye and pretend as though the judicial institution was impervious to the menace of corruption. “Judicial corruption certainly exists,” he said.

“From my experience, I can say that a vast majority of Judges with whom I have associated are hard-working, intelligent and honest. However, at the same time it would not be incorrect to say that a few judges are inappropriately influenced in their decision making.”

In the recent past, several instances of judicial misdemeanour came on to the public domain thereby causing damage to the image of the Judiciary. In the face of such harm caused by judicial corruption, some questioned as to why judicial independence should create a barrier to any potentially effective means of ensuring judicial accountability.

Mr. Shah said judicial independence should not protect a judge from investigation and censure for a valid charge.