Judges sue SRC over medical cover, travel allowance

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) Chairperson Lyn Mengich. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Judges are embroiled in a legal battle with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over their medical cover and travel allowances.

In the case filed before the High Court, judges lament that despite being glued to computers all day while hearing virtual court sessions, SRC had slashed their optical cover by close to Sh130,000.

Through lawyer Elisha Ongoya, the judicial officers have taken an issue with the commission’s decision to reduce their travel allowance by Sh8,000. Ongoya says judges are the only government officials who are deployed all over the country.

The lawyer asserts that the SRC dangled to judges peanuts in salary increment but raided their pay slips.

"That while the respondent has made marginal increases in the judges' salaries, it has also acted without jurisdiction in formulating benefits of judges, which unless urgently resolved would be detrimental to the independence of the judiciary and delivery of justice," argues Ongoya.

Judges are entitled to Sh200,000 optical cover while their travel allowance is capped at Sh20,000. However, in the new pay structure, SRC reduced the cover to Sh75,000 and travel allowance to Sh12,000.

Ongoya argues that SRC has consistently made errors while tabulating how much judges are entitled to.

"That the errors made by the respondent in setting the remuneration and benefits of judges run at cross purpose with the Constitution, which makes it necessary to immediately stay the implementation of the pay structure for the judges even though its implementation would have instant benefits for the judges,” he says.

Marion Joy Onchangwa is the face of the judges’ case. In her supporting affidavit, she asserts that judges use computers to conduct online court sessions, peruse documents filed by parties, carry out research and type their decisions.

“Due to the extensive exposure to the screen light they are predisposed to suffer eyes problems which ought to be treated sufficiently as a means of ensuring occupational health and ensuring productivity of judges.”

“Due to the nature of their work, judges have to be transferred every three years. Many, if not all, reside away from their workstations... While judges are ordinarily supplied with an official car, in the recent past judges have had to wait for more than two years before they are allocated an official car,” she says.

SRC provided for a Sh8 million car loan repayable in five years. But the judges say a monthly repayment of Sh143,750 was not sustainable.

“The respondent also purports to limit the number of judges who can benefit from Special Judicial Duty Allowance for additional Special Judicial Responsibilities that may be bestowed on them,” she says.