The proposed judicial reform is in danger of being shipwrecked in the face of opposition from the legal profession. Political activists will do well to join hands in efforts to rescue it.
Under pressure from judges, prosecutors and lawyers, the special committee on judicial reform is moving to terminate its operation at the end of June, as scheduled, though it is necessary to extend it because final decisions are yet to be made on key reform proposals.
The committee appeared to be getting off to a good start when its six-member subcommittee came up with drastic proposals two months ago. They included the creation of a special agency for criminal investigations and an increase in the number of Supreme Court justices.
The proposal to create a special agency for criminal investigations was based on the widely shared belief that the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has failed to maintain political neutrality in launching politically sensitive criminal inquiries. The subcommittee proposed a special agency empowered to investigate cases involving lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.
Denying the charges of being biased in its investigations, the prosecutors’ office was vehement in its opposition to the proposal for a special agency. Apparently under a request from prosecutors’ office, prosecutor-turned members of the judicial reform committee refused to budge in their opposition.
The proposal to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from 14 to 20 was intended to address their complaint about too high a workload. But somehow, senior judges were near unanimous in their opposition, offering dubious reasons. Was it because they believed the justices’ prestige would be diluted if their number was increased?
Advocacy groups are well advised to put pressure on the reform committee to extend its operation until action is taken on the reform proposals. They also need to appeal to the electorate to defend their cause.