Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1150, 29 May - 5 June 2013
Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Issue 1150, 29 May - 5 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

Judges reject Shura intervention

There is no letup in judges’ objections to Shura Council involvement in amending the judicial authority law, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The month-long stand-off between the Islamist-led Shura Council and the judiciary has escalated into a war of attrition.

After a joint meeting on Tuesday the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and the Judges Club announced their rejection of amendments to the 1972 judicial authority law proposed by the Shura Council.

“Judges do not believe the Shura Council is qualified to discuss such matters, nor is it constitutionally authorised to propose legislation regulating judicial activities,” said Judges Club Chairman Ahmed Al-Zend.

“Article 169 of the new constitution clearly states that draft laws aimed at regulating the performance of the judiciary cannot be passed without first seeking the opinion of the judicial authorities. In the absence of this the Shura Council’s amendments will be ruled unconstitutional.”

Al-Zend argues that the judicial authority law is one of a raft of laws that cannot be discussed unless both houses of parliament — the Shura Council and the House of Representatives — are in place. “The Shura Council’s insistence on violating this constitutional principle shows that its proposed amendments of the judicial authority law are politically motivated,” he said.

On 25 May, in a session marked by political divisions, the Shura Council referred three proposed amendments of the 1972 judicial authority law to the council’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee for discussion article by article.

Ahmed Fahmi, chairman of the Shura Council and a leading official of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), stressed that the “Shura Council is not seeking a confrontation with judges.”

Fahmi expressed hopes that “the Justice Conference will be held very soon so that judges will be able to reach a consensus over proposed amendments to the law regulating the performance of judicial authority. They can then submit these amendments to the Shura Council for adoption.”

The session began with non-Islamist deputies up in arms against Islamist MPs from the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP, Wasat and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s Reconstruction and Development party who insisted on ramming their proposed amendments through the session. The amendments include cutting the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60; new rules for appointing the prosecutor-general and making it compulsory for judges to participate in supervising general elections. Any judge who refuses to supervise the polls would face disciplinary action.

Non-Islamist deputies wore sashes bearing the words “No to a flawed law and no to a flawed session”.

Ihab Al-Kharrat, chairman of the Shura Council’s Human Rights Committee and a member of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that non-Islamist deputies wanted the proposed amendments to be rejected outright. He agreed with Al-Zend that the Shura Council was not mandated to discuss them in the absence of the House of Representatives.

“Non-Islamist deputies reached an agreement with MPs from the Nour Party that they would walk out of the session if the council approved the proposed amendments even in principle,” revealed Al-Kharrat. The move aimed to embarrass the Shura Council and strip the amendments any claims to legitimacy or consensus, said Al-Kharrat. 

Taher Abdel-Mohsen, deputy chairman of the council’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, said he was proud to be one of the three deputies who proposed changes to the judicial authority law. “The time has come to re-organise the judicial authority and rid it of corrupt elements,” he railed.

Wasat Party deputy Tarek Al-Malt told Al-Ahram Weekly that, “referring the proposed amendments back to the Constitutional Affairs Committee was expected given that Article 169 of the constitution stresses that amendments of laws regulating the judicial authority cannot be discussed without first seeking the opinion of representatives of judicial authorities.”

“The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee will embark on a series of hearing sessions and receive amendments proposed by judges until consensus emerges on a new draft law,” said Al-Malt. “This could take time but in the end are confident a consensus will be reached.”

Newly-appointed Minister of Justice Ahmed Suleiman said “the Shura Council’s referral of the proposed amendments to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee is just a formality.”

Suleiman added he was optimistic that the showdown between judges and the Shura Council would be contained after the Shura Council entrusted its Legislative and Constitutional Committee with seeking the opinion of judicial authorities. The ministry, said Suleiman, is willing to join forces with the SJC in drafting a new judicial authority law, though no talks had yet taken place between the two.




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