The referral of amendments to the judicial authority law by the Shura Council to its Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee is a formality, Minister of Justice Ahmed Suleiman stated late on Saturday.
Speaking to Al-Ahram Arabic news website, Suleiman further expressed his hope that the conflict between the legislative and judicial branches would calm down after the Shura Council’s referral of the law to the committee, which “is obligated to take into account the opinions of judicial bodies and the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).”
Suleiman stressed that the ministry was willing to cooperate with the SJC in formulating a draft judicial law that is comprehensive. He clarified, however, that no talks had yet taken place between the two, but that the justice ministry “greatly welcomes cooperation with the SJC.”
On Saturday, Egypt’s Shura Council (upper house of parliament) referred three contentious amendents to the 1972 judicial authority law to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee for scrutiny.
The proposed amendments, presented in April by the moderate Islamist Wasat Party and endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, caused uproar among judges amid an ongoing crisis between the judiciary and Islamist forces.
The proposed amendments include reducing the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60, which would effectively pension off about a quarter of Egypt's 13,000 serving judges.
The MPs who proposed the amendments argue that the retirement age was gradually increased from 60 to 70 during the Mubarak era in order to prolong the terms of judges loyal to the regime.
The amendments are part of a months-long standoff between the presidency and the judiciary, which began in earnest in November, when Morsi issued a decree sacking Mubarak-era Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud and replacing him with Judge Talaat Abdullah.
The move prompted uproar among much of the judiciary, with a number of judges accusing Morsi of infringing on judicial independence. According to Egyptian law, they argued, the SJC is the only entity with the right to appoint a new prosecutor general.