AMID A continuing stand-off between the Centre and the Supreme Court over the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges, the lawyers’ fraternity in Punjab and Haryana has now raised objection on the Supreme Court collegium’s recent decision to put an age cap on advocates to be considered for appointment as High Court judge.
The lawyers have called it a “discriminatory” decision. In a letter sent on Monday with copies to the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister, the Union Law Minister and the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Punjab and Haryana HC Bar Association sought “revising/modifying the anti-lawyers decision regarding age bar taken in MoP”.
The Indian Express had reported on March 26 that the SC collegium has recommended to the Centre that lawyers who are to be considered for the post of HC judges should be between 45 and 55 years. For elevation of district and sessions judges to the HC bench, the collegium has recommended a maximum age of 58-and-half years.
“(The) bar association has received representations from many senior advocates and other members of the Bar, raising concern about Supreme Court’s decision of fixing a maximum age limit of 55 years. It is arbitrary,” bar association president Harpreet Singh Brar said.
The association wrote that Articles 124 and 217 of Constitution regarding appointment of judges do not provide any age bar. “Secondly, the discrimination of age bar between lawyers vis-a-vis judicial officers is unfair and discriminatory,” it stated.
The association also stated that discrimination in fixing an upper age limit for advocates “puts lawyers at lower pedestal, and less deserving and (less) meritorious”.
It argued that elevation to the HC bench is not done every year, and at times for years together, which scuttles opportunities for lawyers for consideration to be elevated to the bench. “In case the elevation is not held every year, some lawyers would surpass the age of 55,” it contended.
But, the association pointed out, judicial officers not only get the opportunity to be elevated late but also at times after retirement.
Jaivir Yadav, chairperson of the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, said, “We will call an emergent meeting of the General House on March 30. We will take up the issue with regard to MoP with the Bar Council of India, and at other appropriate level.”