New Delhi, July 13: The practice of offering gubernatorial postings or arbitration assignments to former judges should be discontinued to address fears that the lure of post-retirement option could prejudice their work just before they leave office, former chief justice of India J S Verma has said.
"I am not in favour of offering a governor's post to former Supreme Court judges," he said pointing to the need to eliminate such offers being made to soon-to-retire judges.
"Any office, the tenure of which is dependent on the will of the executive should not be accepted by a former Supreme Court Judge or even be offered to him," he said.
His views are echoed by chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and justice E M S Natchiappan.
"There is a feeling that judges who are offered some special post-retirement assignments start accommodating powerful decision-makers in the immediate period before retirement," Natchiappan said.
Justice Verma does not also favour former judges taking up private arbitration or consultancy assignments.
"I am particularly against written opinions given for consideration that are used with the name of the judge/chief justice by parties to a litigation or dispute to support their claim before the concerned court, tribunal or authority," he said.
He also referred to a letter written by him to the Prime Minister in 2005 in which he suggested that post-retirement activity of former Supreme Court judges be brought under the arena of judicial accountability.
Post-retirement assignments that are statutory, requiring the appointment of judges alone and have a fixed tenure not dependent on the will of the executive, should be the only exception, the former chief justice said.
Natchiappan suggests the retirement age of Supreme Court and High Court judges be raised to make the best use of their knowledge in their sixties.
In fact, he has recommended in a recent report that the age of retirement for high court judges be raised from 62 to 65 years -- the age at which apex court judges retire at present.
"Personally speaking, I would have gone ahead and proposed a uniform retirement age of 70 years for both Supreme Court and High Court judges," he says, "but I think the issue needs to be discussed thoroughly before any step in that direction is taken."
"Since we need maturity in our judgements and around the age of 60 years judges are at the peak of their careers, giving them another decade of service seems to be a viable option.
The fears about the possibility of misconduct by a person, whose family is settled and who is in a frame of mind to devote more time to work, can also be addressed by giving him an extension in office," he said.
Justice Verma backs raising high court judges' retirement from 62 to 65 but is against raising the retirement age of apex court judges from 65 to 70.
"A better way of using retired judges' knowledge is that government pay them full salary life-long, with continuity of essential perquisites as post-retirement benefit and uses their services for seeking opinion and involves them in government's arbitration matters, without any additional monetary incentive," he said.
The former chief justice said, "One does not need to hold an office to do public service."