An increase in the pension for judges is on the way. And a review of the ten-year constitutional provision prohibiting judges from resuming private practice.
These were among the “ground-breaking and historic” measures announced by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan aimed at “enhancing the package” of members of the judiciary.
Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the St Clair office of the Prime Minister, Ramlogan said this is also part of the move to sustain and maintain the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
He said the Judges Pensions Act, which was enacted in 1962, and judges pensions have never been revised upward since then.
“The Government is seeking to increase the amount of pension paid to a retired judge from 1/360th to 1/300th. The amendment would also provide for a periodic revision of the pension paid to retired judges of the Supreme Court, as well as a more favourable computation of the pension paid to judges of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Furthermore, the amended bill will propose a recalculation of the pension of judges who have retired for more than ten years.
He said the pension of judges who had retired more than ten years ago was woefully inadequate to meet their needs, having regard to rising costs and medical care.
This recalculated pension would be for the period January 1, 2002 to January 1, 2012, the Attorney General said.
Ramlogan said in the last 15 years retired judges have faced the worst form of financial hardship and burdens because their pension is very small, compared to the duties they have performed and the important offices they have held in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have seen in some cases…the sad decline in the state of health and not just for the judge but for the widow or spouse,” he said.
The Attorney General said many judges have expressed concern about the remuneration package which had caused them to think twice about serving on the bench.
“Some have left and gone up the islands and we have lost some very good judges because of that, others are threatening to leave,” he said.
On the removing of the prohibition to prevent judges from returning to private practice within ten years, Ramlogan said Government believed it was time to take a second look at the Prohibition and therefore the Law Reform Commission was looking at the matter.
He said he had also engaged the Law Association on the issue.
“I am awaiting word from the president of the Law Association, which I think, quite frankly, is long overdue having regard to the fact that I wrote them three or four months ago in such an important matter that requires some thought and discussion.”
Ramlogan said he had also asked the Law Association to discuss the issue of contingency legal fees.