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Judges’ widows get pensions too

By Andre Bagoo Monday, June 16 2014

GOVERNMENT and Opposition MPs on Friday night unanimously voted in measures which will almost double judges pensions and widen the coverage given to judges’ widows.

The Judges Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was passed at 10.12 pm at the end of a marathon sitting of the House of Representatives. The bill was debated alongside legislation to raise MP’s pensions.

During debate, Government Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal said judges, upon retirement, often face the, “challenges of health, paying an assortment of bills which may remain outstanding.”

“Judges cannot by law practice their own profession upon retirement,” he noted, alluding to constitutional rules that bar a judge from returning to private practice for ten years upon retirement.

Moonilal read out a letter from the wife of an ailing judge who, in 2004, had implored the executive for financial help and who had asked for urgent consideration of the issue.

“No one knows the date of his demise,” the wife, whom Moonilal did not name, said. He said former Prime Minister Patrick Manning opted not to cater for individual cases but rather expressed a preference for a comprehensive pension reform agenda. Yet, he was not able to provide enhanced pension arrangements for judges, despite a meeting with members of the Judiciary on the issue.

“Ten years later we have taken the view that would like to bring relief to members of the Judiciary,” Moonilal said. He said the move would deal with, “the very high level of discrimination and distress that has taken place in the society.”

Moonilal said, “This ensures judges will never have to suffer the indignity which I have described. It is long overdue but everything happens for a reason.”

The legislation increases the proportion of base pay used to calculate the pension benefit but it also widens the allowances that must be included in the base for the purpose of the calculation. The effect is almost a doubling of the pension which, for example, would see the Chief Justice’s pension move from $50,350 to $93,223.

The bill also provides that when a sitting Judge, retired Judge, a sitting Chief Justice or retired Chief Justice dies and leaves behind a widow, the widow is paid the annual sum of 85 percent of his pensionable emoluments (rather than one-quarter) or a monthly pension of $3,000, whichever is greater.

The Bill also provides that whenever judge’s salaries or pensionable allowances increase, widows are also entitled to have their pensions recalculated as though the judge was still in that office or retired from that office. The judges pension legislation, as well as the MPs pension legislation, heads to the Senate.

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