Madras HC Asks Centre to Reconsider Raising Retirement Age of All Coast Guard Staff to 60 Yearsnewsbhunt

While setting aside the order of the defence ministry rejecting a plea by Coast Guard members below the rank of Commandant seeking enhancement in the retirement age from 57 to 60 years, the Madras High Court asked the Central government to reconsider its decision.

The bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Bharatha Chakravarthy gave liberty to the members of the Coast Guard to make such representation in detail and place relevant material before the government within a period of three and asked the government to take a decision on the same in accordance with the law, within a period of four months therefrom.

The members of the Coast Guard approached the high court challenging the Constitutional Validity of Rule 20(1) of the Indian Coast Guard Rules 1986. They also challenged the order passed by the Ministry of Defense refusing to enhance the age of retirement of the Coast Guard up to the level of commandant from 57 to 60 years.

Notably, as per Rule 20(1) of the Indian Coast Guard Rules 1986, the age of retirement of the members of the Coast Guard up to the cadre of commandant is 57 years and in respect of the Ranks above the commandant is 60 years.

Referring to the Delhi High Court judgment in Dev Sharma v Indo Tibetan Border Police and Others (2019), the petitioners argued that in that case, the court had increased the retirement age to 60 for all the ranks in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), therefore, there was no justification in continuing the retirement age as 57 for members below the rank of Commandant only in respect of the Coast Guard.

They contended that there was no rationale in differentiating between officers up to the rank of commandant and other higher ranks.

On the other hand, the counsel for the government argued that the Seventh Pay Commission considered only the cases of the other paramilitary forces and specifically did not consider the case of the Coast Guard since there was no request from the Coast Guard to reconsider the age.

The counsel submitted that the concerned Rule prescribes different age limits, considering many factors, including the fact that the services up to the level of Commandant have a greater off-shore service and therefore there is justification for prescribing a lower age limit.

The ranks above the level of Commandant and are predominantly administrative in nature and as such the higher age limit of 60 years is prescribed, he asserted.

At the outset, the high court held that Article 33 of the Constitution of India was applicable to the instant case, therefore, there would be minimal interference by the court.

However, it noted that in the impugned government order, though the government had stated many reasons for rejecting the claim of retirement age parity in the Coast Guard Service, there was absolutely no application of mind whatsoever regarding the similarity or otherwise with the other CAPFs.

Further, regarding the contention that the other higher officials are involved in administrative duty and personnel up to the rank of commandant are predominantly in offshore duties, the court said depending on the size of the vessel, even the Deputy Inspector General whose retirement age is 60 years, automatically assumes the rank of Commandant in respect of certain types of vessels.

The petitioners were also able to demonstrate that offshore duties are assigned to the other officer cadres also, court highlighted.

“Thus, it can be seen that the argument relating to the reason mentioned by the respondent relating to younger age profile and suitability for offshore duties has been demonstrated to be doubtful,” therefore, held the court.

Moreover, the court pointed out that the impugned order did not address as to whether the rank and profile of the other CAPFs covered in the Delhi High Court Judgment were identically situated or not.

“It can be seen from the impugned order that nothing has been considered in respect of the similarity or otherwise of the other CAPFs and the implementation in respect of the common age pursuant to the Judgment of the Delhi High Court in Dev Sharma,” court underscored.

Therefore, the court asked the petitioners to place before the government such materials as they wished, so as to justify their claim and opined that it is for the government to consider the same and take a call in the matter.

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