JUDICIAL PAY CUT UNCONSTITUTIONAL: COMMISSION

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar 21) – The Fiji Judicial Services Commission has questioned why judges have been included in the 5 per cent pay cut imposed on civil servants.

It says the Constitution forbids cutting judges' salaries.

Section 136 states: "The remuneration of judges must not be reduced during their terms of office."

Commission chairman and Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates said he had written to Interim Attorney-General and Justice Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on the issue and was awaiting a response.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum could not be reached for comment last night.

Justice Gates was responding to an announcement on Monday by Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama that the five per cent pay cut imposed on civil servants would apply to judges, magistrates and other holders of constitutional offices.

Justice Gates said yesterday the remuneration of judges, not magistrates, was protected under Section 136 of the Constitution and could not be reduced during their terms of office.

He said the Higher Salaries Commission determined the remuneration and allowances of judges if not already covered by the Judges Remuneration and Emoluments Act.

He said the commission determined the pay of magistrates.

"Section 136 of the Constitution has now been drawn to the attention of the executive," he said.

Justice Gates said this section of the Constitution was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary. "The judges are sometimes considered to be apart from society, though not above it,'' he said.

"Some judges will wish to share in the hardship of those who have suffered the five per cent pay cuts. Some will seek the rightful protection of the Constitution for their pay. It might turn out to be a matter of personal choice."

Higher Salaries Commission acting manager Amalaini Kuruvakadua could not be reached for a comment.

Fiji Law Society president Davenesh Sharma could not be reached for comment but vice president Tupou Draunidalo said they would make a statement on the issue today.

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