Justice Zainool Hosein is reported to have said, “If the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) had been doing its job with respect to judges’ pensions, the new Judges Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives on Friday, would not have been necessary.”
The crux of the problem is the confusion around who is responsible for reviewing and increasing pensions—for senators, members of parliament and for judges.
Justice Hosein cites sections 133 and 141.(1) of the constitution to support his view that the SRC “has the responsibility to review pensions”. He referred to having been told by the SRC that it did not have such responsibility. It has been argued that the SRC has purview over holders of offices and retirees are no longer office-holders and are therefore not under the purview of the SRC.
Justice Hosein does not think this argument makes sense “…as a pension is not payable to someone who is in office and the SRC is under obligation to do so in relation to past holders of office”. Referring to section 133, he said, “…the provision is there. Someone has got to tell me what was the reason for putting it there.”
I am not a lawyer, nor a pensions expert, but I have common sense and I agree with Justice Hosein.
Section 141.1 states, “The Salaries Review Commission shall from time to time with the approval of the President review the salaries and other conditions of service of the President, the holders of offices referred to in section 136 (2) to (15), members of Parliament, including Ministers of Government and Parliamentary Secretaries and the holders of such other offices as may be prescribed.”
If the pensions bills are enacted, what is now a constitutional crisis will result in Government having a blank cheque for rewarding itself, economic chaos and long-lasting social unrest.
There can be no amendment to the bills. They must be allowed to lapse. The matter must be referred to the SRC with a mandate for getting the job done by a specified deadline.