By George Psyllides
THE SUPREME Court has ruled in favour of district court judges who had appealed against the pay cuts imposed as part of the effort to save the economy, arguing that their remuneration was protected by the Constitution.
Almost all district court judges had filed appeals citing Article 158.3 of the Constitution, which states that “the remuneration and other conditions of service of any such judge shall not be altered to his disadvantage after his appointment.”
However, from the 84 appeals initially filed, 47 were later withdrawn “in light of the deterioration of the state’s general financial condition without however, the applicants accepting the legality of the contested decisions.”
In its decision, issued yesterday, the Supreme Court said there was no dispute that “the object of the article was to safeguard the independence of the judiciary as well as the separation of powers.”
The courts said the matter could not be viewed as a matter of equal treatment.
“It is the choice of the constitutional legislator to exempt the judicial service from any measures reducing the judges’ remuneration for obvious reasons,” the Supreme Court said.
The court said such reduction could only be imposed through taxation that indirectly affected remuneration – the tax should be enforced across the board without discrimination.
Attorney-general Petros Clerides had made a passionate plea during a hearing in March, arguing that with the country on the brink of collapse it was not the time for the Supreme Court to be hearing such appeals.
Speaking before nine members of the Supreme Court, Clerides said: “ The president is doing the rounds to prevent the bankruptcy of the state, children in schools are going hungry, 900 employees who were on €1,000 a month had to leave the public service, shops have closed, you are aware of the unemployment rate… you are part of society, you have judicial knowledge, and if you are not aware, you live in a place disconnected from reality.”
The court said that part of Clerides’ statement was full of emotion but “poor in legal arguments.”
In essence Clerides claimed that well-paid judges refused to contribute, the court said.
“We consider it our duty to observe that this attack against the applicants was unfair, to say the least, when they all said their objective was to safeguard the constitution and most of them had pledged that they would voluntarily contribute their share whatever the court decision,” the Supreme Court said.
“We hope that their example will be followed by the rest of the applicants.”