Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Facts behind salary increase for judges

Published:Wednesday | June 23, 2021 | 12:06 AM


I write, on my own initiative, with reference to an article which appeared in your newspaper on May 20, 2021 captioned ‘Judges Get Salary Increase’.

The article reports on a recently announced (but not yet implemented) increase in judicial salaries. It suggests that the increase gave effect to the report by the ‘Ninth Independent Commission’ established to enquire into the adequacy of judicial emoluments. I wish to correct this bit of misinformation.

The fact is that the announced increase in salaries bears no relation to that which the commission recommended. This is not unusual and continues a pattern set by previous administrations in which the government virtually ignores the recommendations of the commission established by statute to review and report on judicial salaries. I think it is important that the public be made aware of this.

In a democracy, an independent judiciary is necessary if the rule of law is to be maintained. This is so because when issues arise between the citizen and the State, or between citizens of unequal economic strength, the judges must be able to decide those issues without fear or favour. One important ingredient in that independence is the economic well-being of the judge.

It is for this reason that a law was passed which provided for an independent commission to review and recommend changes to judicial emoluments. The report of the commission is by law to be tabled in the people’s Parliament along with the minister’s recommendation. Parliament is to review both and, by negative resolution, may indicate disapproval with any adjustment recommended by the minister.

It is a matter of some regret that not only was there a long delay in the tabling of the commission’s report but, and this is a matter of record, the parliamentary subcommittee which met to consider the matter endorsed the minister’s recommendation. At least one prominent member of the Opposition was absent from the meeting, perhaps an indication of the importance attached to these matters.

Whereas judges cannot tell the minister, or the Parliament, how to conduct their affairs or what salary adjustment to provide, we can correct inaccurate media reports.