Increasing the retirement age for coastal guard staff to 60 has to be reassessed by the central government: Madras High Court  

Case Title: Lakshmichandra Harishchandra Sharma v Union of India and Another

Case No: W.P. Nos.415, 947, 901 and 766 of 2021

Decided on: 23rd November, 2023


Facts of the Case

The issue concerns a number of petitions that Coast Guard personnel filed contesting Rule 20(1) of the Indian Coast Guard Rules 1986’s constitutionality. The petitions also challenge a Ministry of Defence regulation that denied raising the retirement age of Coast Guard members from the present 57 years to 60 years. The petitioners contended that the Coast Guard’s 57-year-old retirement age was unwarranted, citing the Delhi High Court’s decision in Dev Sharma v. Indo Tibetan Border Police and Others (2019), which raised the retirement age to 60 for other Central Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs). The petitioners’ main point is that there doesn’t seem to be any logic to distinguishing officers below the rank of commandant from those above in terms of retirement age.

In response, the administration cited Article 33 of the Constitution and claimed that any law that allowed for discriminatory treatment would be upheld by the constitution. The Centre provided additional support for its position by claiming that the Coast Guard Rules were created in accordance with the authority provided by Coast Guard Act of 1978 Section 123(2)(E). The government further emphasized that the Seventh Pay Commission’s suggestion of a uniform retirement age of 60 for all CAPFs had an impact on the Delhi High Court’s ruling, noting that the Pay Commission was not contacted by the Coast Guard to request an age enhancement. The government contended that rather than imposing its opinions on the Court, it should respect the respondent’s knowledge and experience, especially when it comes to issues involving the military services.

Legal Provisions

The main sections involved in the case are Rule 20(1) of the Indian Coast Guard Rules 1986 pertaining to the retirement age of members of the Coast Guard and is at the core of the dispute. The government relies on Article 33 to argue that if any law provides for differential treatment, it would be constitutionally valid. This article empowers the Parliament to restrict or abrogate certain rights of members of the armed forces in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The government justifies the framing of Coast Guard Rules under Section 123(2)(E) of the Coast Guard Act.


Does Rule 20(1) of the Indian Coast Guard Rules 1986, along with the Ministry of Defense’s order refusing to enhance the retirement age of Coast Guard members to 60 years, violate constitutional principles, considering the applicability of Article 33 of the Constitution and the powers exercised under Section 123(2)(E) of the Coast Guard Act 1978?

Courts analysis and decision

The Central Government has been directed by the High Court to reconsider the decision to raise the retirement age of all Coast Guard employees from 57 to 60 years old. This decision follows the court’s reversal of a Defense Ministry directive that had denied a request for an extension of the retirement age made by Coast Guard members below the level of commandant. The court gave members the freedom to provide arguments and supporting documentation in support of their request, emphasizing the significance of reevaluating the decision. It noted that the Seventh Pay Commission had not issued any explicit directives to the Indian Coast Guard, and it emphasized the Delhi High Court’s doubts about the Center’s justifications for categorization. It also stated that a comprehensive investigation was required to ascertain whether the different retirement age is compliant with Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

The Center’s argument supporting the age classification based on administrative and offshore duties was questioned by the High Court. The Delhi High Court’s 2019 precedent for a uniform retirement age of 60 and the Coast Guard’s resemblance to other Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) were noted by the court as lacking consideration in the rejection ruling. The court emphasized that before reaching a definitive conclusion about any constitutional article violations, the Centre must carefully consider how the Coast Guard differs from other CAPFs. Ultimately, the court threw out the contested order and recommended that the Centre reevaluate the retirement age matter, considering the unique conditions of the Coast Guard and attending to the issues brought up throughout the legal process.

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Written by- Rupika Goundla

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