KUALA LUMPUR: Two former Chief Judges of Malaya and a former Court of Appeal president are among a group of retired judges and their families who are suing the government and three others over increment issues to their pensions and benefits.
The group comprises 28 retired judges from the High Court nationwide, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, and seven widows of deceased judges.
The judges include former Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, former Chief Judges of Malaya Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob and Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Nor, and former Court of Appeal judge Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, the former Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
They named the government, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Public Service Department director-general as the first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively.It was understood that the lawsuit was filed last week through Messrs Chooi & Company + Cheang & Ariff.
The judges and families claim that the defendants had failed to give them an appropriate higher percentage of adjustment than the 2% annual increment to their pensions since 2015.
According to the court document, the plaintiffs were aggrieved by the anomalous and unconstitutional situation through the non-adjustment of their constitutionally-protected right to adjustment of their pensions, pursuant to Articles 125(7) and 125(9) of the Federal Constitution.
The adjustment of their pensions was provided for under Section 15B of the Judges’ Remuneration Act 1971.
“The constitutionally entrenched provisions of Section 15B were amended with retrospective effect to Jan 1, 2014.
“These retrospective amendments have adversely altered the pensions of the plaintiffs to their detriment and disadvantage owing to the non-implementation of parts of the amended provisions in outright and blatant breach of Articles 125(7) and 125(9) of the Federal Constitution,” the document said.
It claimed that under the previous provisions of Section 15B, the pensions of the plaintiffs would have been adjusted automatically and correspondingly to reflect increased salaries of serving judges.
“However, under amended provisions of Section 15B(1), their pensions are now adjusted annually by 2%, without taking into account the increases in the salaries of serving judges,” it added.
The salaries of serving judges were increased under the Judges’ Remuneration (Amendment of First and Fifth Schedules) Regulations 2016, with effect from July 1, 2015.
The plaintiffs said they had sent a notice of demand dated Sept 17, 2021, to the first defendant demanding, among others, that the government shall pay each of the plaintiffs the amount entitled to them to be calculated from July 1, 2015, in one lump sum.
However, there has been no response to the notice of demand.
The plaintiffs are seeking to have their pensions raised in tandem with the increased salaries of serving judges.
The plaintiffs also sought a court order for the Cabinet and the director-general to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to prescribe, by order in a gazette, the appropriate higher percentage of increment.
They also sought an order for the defendants to pay the amount owed to the plaintiffs in one lump sum, interests, costs and other orders deemed just and fit by the court.
Meanwhile, People’s Legal Team founder Dinesh Muthal said it was an embarrassment for “law keepers” to have to seek legal redress over their remuneration troubles.
“Whatever amount due to them (the judges), is clearly stipulated in the Judges Remuneration Act 1971,” he said.
“I do not understand why they have not been paid what was due to them since 2015.”
He said the best option would be to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the matter to prevent further embarrassment to the government by allowing it to go to court.
“One cannot expect the sitting judges assigned to hear the case to not be even a little biased as the matter would involve their future after retirement as well,’’ he added.
However, Dinesh said there were some concerns over the claims as it spans over six years, which may not be permissible for legal redress.
“I believe cases initiated against the government cannot go beyond three years and so there may be some time-related limitation,’’ said Dinesh, adding that is why setting up a commission of inquiry would be more suitable.
Demanding action: (From left) Alauddin, Siti Norma, Haidar and Mohamad Ariff are among the group comprising 35 retired judges from the High Court nationwide, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, as well as the widows of seven deceased judges.