Following the continuing stand-off between the Centre and the Supreme Court over the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges, now the lawyer fraternity has also raised objection on Supreme Court collegium’s recent decision of fixing the maximum age limit as 55 years for consideration of an advocate for High Court judgeship by terming it “iniquitorious” and “discriminatory.”
The Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, on Monday, sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister, the union Law Minister and the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court requesting for “revising/modifying the anti–lawyers decision regarding age bar taken in MoP.”
The Indian Express was the first to report on March 26 that the Supreme Court collegium has recommended to the Centre that any lawyer to be considered for the High Court judgeship should have a minimum age of 45 years or a maximum age of 55 years. Whereas for elevation of District and Sessions Judges to the High Court bench, the Supreme Court collegium has recommended the maximum age of 58-and-a-half years.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bar Association president, Harpreet Singh Brar, said, “Bar Association has received representations from many senior advocates and other members of the Bar raising their concern about Supreme Court’s decision of fixing maximum age limit of 55 years and it is arbitrary.”
The Bar Association, in its letter, has submitted that Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution of India regarding appointment of judges do not provide any age bar for appointment of judges. “Secondly, the discrimination of age bar between lawyers vis-a-vis judicial officers is unfair and discriminatory,” reads the letter. The Bar Association has further submitted that discrimination in fixing of upper age limit for the advocates is “iniquitorious and puts the lawyers at lower pedestal and less deserving and (less) meritorious.”
It has been argued by the Bar Association that elevation to the High Court bench is not done every year and at times for years together, which scuttles the opportunities for lawyers for consideration to be elevated to the Bench. “In case the elevation is not held every year, some of the lawyers would surpass the age of 55 years,” it has been contended.
On the contrary, judicial officers not only get opportunity to be elevated late but also at time after their retirement. Therefore the procedure is uneven for the lawyers fraternity and there should be no bar on age limit of judicial officers and lawyers or should be the same for both the lawyers as well as judicial officers.
Chairperson of the Bar Council of Punjab and Harayna, Jaivir Yadav, said, “We are going to call an emergent meeting of the General House on March 30 and we will take up the issue with regard to MoP with the Bar Council of India and at other appropriate level.”