The amendments to the Judges Remuneration Act, 1971 were heavily criticized by the Opposition.
As often is the case with politicians, these criticisms are heavy on spin but unfortunately light on merit. Anwar’s lawyer Sankara Nair told TheMalaysianInsider that the amendments conflict with the Federal Constitution as it was unfair to the judges. Amazing to see how after constantly criticizing judges, Sankara turns defender instead.
Sankara agreed with former Bar Council President Ragunath Kesavan’s comments that it was wrong for the judges to have years in service added on to qualify for full pension.
Veteran lawyer Tommy Thomas who acts for Kelantan in the oil royalty case against Petronas says:-
“… for most judges currently serving on the Bench, the relevant pension law is section 5 of the 1971 Act which provides for 15 years’ services.
Because the Amendment Act purports to increase such period to 18 years “it is less favourable” to the judges. Article 147 was given constitutional status to ensure that pension rights accruing to or vested in any member of a public service at the time he joins the public service cannot, to his detriment, be amended by statute. Thus, Parliament can only enhance or improve pension rights; it cannot pass any law that would prejudice or jeopardise pension rights.”
It is very easy to show how all of them have gone wrong.
A High Court judge earns 17,754.56. Under the old law, the formula to calculate their pension is:
1/360 x 17,754.56 x each completed month of service
So a judge who has served 15 years gets:
1/360 x 17,754.56 x 180 = 8,877.28
Because this judge has served the maximum required 15 years, he is entitled to a maximum pension which is 1/2 of his last drawn salary (i.e. half of 17,754.56).
Applying the 1/2 maximum pension proviso, the judge still gets 8,877.28.
A judge who has served 18 years gets:
1/360 x 17,754.56 x 216 = 10,652.74
Applying the 1/2 maximum pension proviso, this is reduced and the judge only gets 8,877.28. Under the new law, the main formula remains the same but the 1/2 maximum pension proviso is changed to 3/5 of his last drawn salary while the maximum required service increased from 15 to 18 years.
So a judge who serves a total of 15 years still gets 8,877.28. The amendment is therefore NOT less favourable and in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
In fact, the amendments reward judges who manage to attain 18 years of service because he instead of being capped at 8,877,28 – he or she now gets 10,652.74.
The other main amendment is that there is a reduction from 10 years to three years for the entitlement of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of Malaya and the Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak to maximum pension.
Many criticisms have been leveled on this including that the amendments are tailored to the benefit of outgoing Chief Justice Zaki Azmi who is already a wealthy man.
This is petty.
All future bearers of high judicial office will benefit. And there should never be complaint from any party if a judge’s remuneration is increased.
In any case, Zaki and future Chief Justices will now receive 15,000 per month in pension. Hardly an astronomical amount given the nature of the office