Recently, Parliament passed the Administration of Judiciary Bill that has been lying on the shelf for two years.
I haven’t acquainted myself with the details of the Bill, but going by media reports, if assented to by the President, judicial officers right from the lower ranks to the highest are to continue receiving their salaries even in retirement.
Besides, the Bill seeks, among other things, to formalise the Judicial Training Institute, to establish a Judiciary Council to be charged with advising the Chief Justice on policies for planning and development, ethics and integrity, financing and staff development, and welfare. I react on the Bill thus:
First, the law is timely as it will enhance the independence of the Judiciary. Similarly, in 2003, while recognising the work of Commonwealth, Heads of Government, Parliamentary Associations and three Commonwealth partner legal bodies -The Commonwealth Legal Education Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, the Commonwealth Secretariat came up with guidelines on separation of powers which were endorsed by Heads of Government.
The guidelines are known as Latimer House Principles on Accountability of Relationship between the Three Branches of Government.
On the independence of the Judiciary, the Latimer Principles, among others, appeal to member countries to ensure that arrangement for appropriate security of tenure and protection of levels of remuneration of judges are in place and adequate resources should be provided for judicial systems to operate effectively without undue constraints which may hamper the independence sought in Section 4(b) (c).
Besides, the principle of independence of the Judiciary is also reimphasised in the United Nations Basic on the Independence of Judges, 1985 principle. For instance, Section 11 provides that the term of office of judges, their independence, security, adequate remuneration, and conditions of service, pensions and the age of retirement shall be adequately secured by law.
Secondly, on the judicial institute, ideally, judicial officers who have and who will go through the judicial institute, will enhance “the corporate memory of the Judiciary.”
Actually some Commonwealth countries have established institutes to train Parliamentary staff- the African Center for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) based in Ghana, Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training (CPST) of Kenya, and Canada’s Social Science Council (SSHRC), among others. These come in handy here.
Lastly, however, in between the lines, there is where I read that once the President appends his signature to it, the law will carter for even those who retired prior to this particular law coming into existence. However, won’t this violate the legal doctrine of retrospectivity of laws?