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Tue, Apr 18, 2000 - Page 3 News List

`Self-fattening' not possible, says judiciary head

GRAND JUSTICES Officials with the Judicial Yuan said that the justices have never enlarged their own stipends and could not be accused of self-serving rulings

By Jou Ying-cheng  /  STAFF REPORTER

President of the Judicial Yuan Weng Yueh-sheng, right, yesterday calls a press conference to refute National Assembly deputies' accusations against the Grand Justices of having passed so-called `self-fattening' rulings.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Judicial Yuan officials yesterday dismissed accusations made by National Assembly deputies that the grand justices made "self-serving" interpretations of the Constitution.

They also expressed concern about the Assembly's proposal to abolish the Council of Grand Justices, warning that the passage of such an amendment would harm Taiwan's constitutional system.

The same Assembly deputies, whose proposal to abolish the Council passed committee review on Sunday, yesterday introduced another proposed amendment stating that the Council should remain in place, but that their life-long stipend guarantees should be cancelled.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Judicial Yuan president Weng Yueh-sheng (翁岳生) clarified his stance on life salaries for Council members, saying they were anything but "self-serving."

A group of Assembly deputies, including the party whips of the KMT and DPP, charged the Council of Grand Justices of "self-fattening" by making legal interpretations that entitled themselves to salaries for life, despite a system of limited terms for grand justices.

Such stipend privileges for grand justices were added into the organizational rules of the Judicial Yuan in 1992. The grand justices' stipend privileges were therefore passed by the legislature, not the Council itself, Weng said.

"No single one out of over 500 interpretations issued by the Council has ever interpreted the privileges or security of the grand justices. As for Interpretation No.396, cited by the Assembly deputies ? it has nothing to do with self-fattening," Weng said.

"[Grand justices' privileges] are a matter of governmental policy, not the intentions of the Council," Weng said. "In developed countries, the only fears over judicial officials' security is whether it is sufficient. The better the security, the more officials can perform their duties without misgivings or interference."

He also denied that the Council had pressured the legislature into making the law.

"It's impossible. How could the Council possibly have had the power to impose pressure on the legislature?" Weng said.

However, Weng's words were weighed against speculation by some that the Judicial Yuan was fighting back against the National Assembly.

"We are not criticizing [the Assembly deputies], only considering that such Constitutional amendments need to be clarified," he said.

Weng stressed that the current legal system was revisable, but that any reform requires a comprehensive plan. The current judicial system is not able to undertake the task of interpreting the Constitution, he said, and therefore the abolishment of the Council of Grand Justices would bring about a legal crisis and harm the public interest.

Grand Justice Chen Chi-nan (陳計男), said he found the Assembly's remarks "regrettable."

"Should we accept such personal attacks?"Chen said.

On Sunday, Assembly deputies from the KMT and DPP reached a consensus to remove the life stipend guarantees of the grand justices, rather than to abolish the Council altogether as they had originally planned. In fact, the passage of the amendment to abolish the Council during Sunday's committee review session was only been meant to express deputies' discontent with the grand justices and is unlikely to pass second and third readings.

Many deputies were furious after the Council ruled in March that a set of amendments passed last year -- including one that extended the current Assembly's term by two years -- was invalid because it broke procedural rules.

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