Judiciary Amendment Bill, 2022 – (Bill No. 14 of 2022) |28 July 2022
Assembly approves to review remunerations of non-resident Court of Appeal justices
The majority party members of the National Assembly have voted for government to review the remunerations of the non-resident president and justices of the Court of Appeal.
The review will not affect resident justices and will only be effective on newly appointed justices.
Vice-President Ahmed Afif proposed the review during the Assembly session on Tuesday afternoon through the Judiciary Amendment Bill, 2022.
In his presentation of the Bill, Vice-President Afif said our Constitution provides for the establishment of a Court of Appeal headed by a president and comprising justices of Appeal. In accordance with the Constitution, Chapter 40 of the Judiciary Act details, among other provisions, the appointment of the president, the justices and their remunerations.
“The Judiciary Act makes a distinction between the president of the Court of Appeal and its justices who are residents and those who are non-residents of Seychelles,” VP Afif stated.
Other than hearing urgent appeal cases and applications, the Court of Appeal hears appeal cases during three sessions during the year – in April, August and November/December.
“This means that a president or justice of the Court of Appeal who is a resident could discharge their responsibilities full time while non-resident justices are requested to discharge their functions only during one or more sessions when the Court is sitting. In fact, until September 2004 when the late Michael Rabodibedi assumed the function of the president of the Court of Appeal, the president and all justices of the Court of Appeal were not residing in Seychelles. They discharged their responsibilities only when the court sits during the three sessions of the year. Gradually justices of the Court of Appeal have been appointed full time and today the president and two justices of appeal are practicing on a full-time basis while the others are practicing part timely.
The proposed Bill relates to the remunerations for the president and justices of the Court of Appeal who are non-resident and who hear cases only during organised hearing sessions during the year.
It is worth noting that after the Court of Appeal was set up under the 1993 Constitution and the Judiciary Act came into force, it provided for the president of the Court of Appeal and justices who are non-resident to receive an annual retainer fee and a sum for each session heard.
Vice-President Afif noted that at that time the president of the Court of Appeal was receiving a retainer fee of R20,400 and R67,000 for each appeal case heard.
A justice of appeal was receiving an annual retainer fee of R18,000 and equally a sum of R67,000 for each appeal session heard.
“This remuneration process went on until 2013 when the Judiciary Act was amended. But the Act was amended again in 2014. As per the present law, the president of the Court of Appeal and justices of Appeal who are non-resident now receive two thirds of their salary when they are not in session and their full salary when they are in session. In addition they also receive an annual gratuity as well as an end of contract gratuity,” Vice-President Afif explained.
He further went on to explain that following a review and evaluation of the remuneration for the president and justices of appeal who are non-resident, it has been found necessary to restructure or revise their remunerations.
“The amendments that are being proposed are as follows; that a sum equivalent to the monthly salary of the president and justices is paid as annual retainer fee, that a sum equivalent to their monthly salary is paid after each hearing session and that a 25% gratuity based on the totality of their remuneration throughout their contract is paid when their contract ends.”
Vice-President Afif went on to stress that the new revisions will apply when new presidents and justices are appointed and will not in any way impact on the current contracts of the justices.
“These revisions are expected to encourage more judges to be appointed to the Court of Appeal thus more legal and judicial expertise to the institution,” Vice-President Afif remarked.
Debates on the bill were intense but LDS member John Hoareau, who was the first to intervene, remarked that through the amendments the Court of Appeal will attract the best appeal justices and practitioners.
But when he intervened, Hon. Johan Loze from the minority party remarked that he did not understand what the government was trying to fix with the amendments nor what the possible outcome the government was trying to attain because the law as is does not really show anything wrong but the VP gave the impression that the judges are underpaid.
“I don’t think that the salaries being proposed will entice quality justices and I am not sure what is really being amended and how it is going to serve the best interest of the country and how the people pleading their appeal will have the confidence that the Court will do them justice,” Hon. Loze stressed while noting that the government is desperate to win certain cases but in its effort to do so it should not throw a stain on the judiciary.
For his part Hon. Gervais Henrie also highlighted that the revisions in the salaries of non-resident justices of appeal being proposed through the bill will not affect Seychellois resident justices and that Hon. Loze either does not understand the propositions of the bill or he is maliciously trying to sow confusion and create doubt on the government’s intention to try and interfere in the course of justice which is not the case.
The debate went on with other members from both sides airing their views for and against the amendments. For his part Hon. Wallace Cosgrow from the minority party argued that the timing of the amendments is not appropriate and has no urgency when many Seychellois would like to see their work receive more value.
“Seychellois workers are getting a temporary respite of only R500 but they too would have liked to see a law to review the minimum wage for instance to improve their lives,” Hon. Cosgrow argued.
The debate continued in committee stage where members continued to dissect the amendments.
Also present to share his views and clarify different issues raised was Attorney General Frank Ally.
To conclude the debate Vice-President Afif went on to clarify a series of points raised by members from both sides of the House.
When it was time to vote 22 members voted for, none against and eight members abstained.