Judges at the State Council on Monday announced an ongoing public assembly meeting to follow up on the conflict that recently emerged between the judicial and legislative authorities over amending the Judicial Authority Law.
If passed, the new draft law would introduce amendments regarding the appointment of heads of judicial entities. Judges said they uphold the current standard of designating the oldest members in the respective general assemblies as the heads of judicial committees, and they expressed anger over not being consulted on the bill.
According to articles184, 185, and 186 of the Constitution, the judiciary is an independent authority. Article 185 states that each judicial body or organisation shall be consulted regarding any bills regulating their affairs. Article 186 stipulates that the judicial branch is an independent body subject to no authority other than the law, with judges immune from dismissal and equal in rights and duties.
For further clarification on the issue, Ziad Bahaa El-Din, former deputy prime minister and minister of international cooperation, outlined the four existing laws governing the appointment of the heads of judicial committees.
In his article, published on 3 April in Al-Shorouk newspaper, Bahaa El-Din explained that the appointment of the heads of the Cassation Court, State Council, and State Lawsuit Authority should be approved by the president of the country after judges name candidates either in public assemblies or by the supreme council of each judicial entity.
“In other words, judges take part in the decision-making process, and it has been a custom that those candidates are the oldest judges in place,” he wrote. “In the absence of judicial independence, there would be no guarantees for constitutional rights,” Bahaa El-Din added. Still, he defended the parliament’s legislative role over all entities.
Meanwhile, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies issued a statement on 2 April, criticising the parliament’s performance on the Judicial Authority Law, saying that members of parliament (MPs) were surprised to find the law presented at the general meeting without prior notification of the agenda, and that the law had only been discussed within one committee—according to MP Haitham El-Hariri’s statements to Al-Araby TV in March.
El-Hariri was commenting on the session in which the Judicial Authority Law was approved. He argued that the report—prepared by the Legislative Affairs Committee and distributed to the MPs to be voted on—didn’t include the opinion of the State Council or the Judges Club.
“This is in addition to the fact that MPs were not given the floor or time to discuss it, whether in the parliament or with judges, whom according to the constitution should be part of such a process,” El-Hariri said, adding that “the parliament should not have assaulted the judiciary in that manner.”
MP Khaled Youssef was also critical of the parliament’s draft law, saying at a press conference of the “25-30” parliamentary coalition that he would have expected it from the government but certainly not from the parliament itself, in reference to MP Ahmed Al-Sherif, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Committee, who drafted the law.
For his part, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal has said that as a member of the judicial system himself he did not see the parliament’s law as an assault on the judicial authority. In statements reported by state-media and others in March, Abdul Aal said that the law did not tackle the management of the judiciary but only its administration, while asserting that taking the opinions of the judges into consideration should only be for consultation, without placing an obligation upon the lawmakers.
Opponents to the draft law, including MPs, judges, and lawyers, have warned that if passed, there would be a lawsuit of before the Constitutional Court.