ABSOLUTE INDEPENDENCE GRANTED TO JUDICIAL POWER BY THE TREASURY
There is hardly a state institution whose heads seriously believe that within a year the Government would increase 3-fold the subsidies for its maintenence. But that was exactly what the Supreme Judicial Council did (SJC), presenting to the Finance Ministry the draft budget of the judicial power for 2002.Subsidies from the Republican budget for Themis in 2001 were projected at BGL59.8MN-plus, while magistrates demanded some BGL190.5MN for next year. SJC's major motive for asking a steep increase of the subsidies are the planned huge expenses - exceeding BGL42.1MN - for acquisition of tangible long-term assets. However, only BGL5MN was earmarked for such expenses in the budget for 2001.Doubtlessly, the magistrates followed the principle Ask for more in order to get what you need. Thus, the Chairman of the Suprememe Administrative Court Vladislav Slavov was satisfied after his talks with Finance Minister Milen Velchev and Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when it became known that the judiciary power would get BGL82.9MN-plus from the Republican budget and another BGL2.1MN from the Ministry of Justice. BGL12MN of that amount is earmarked for acquisition of tangible long-term assets. Courts, the investigation service, and the prosecutor's office will have to postpone for better times their plans to buy premises for themselves. However, they will not be paying rents when they occupy buildings, which are municipal or state property.Expenses for remuneration of magistartes and court personnel will go up by about BGL8.6MN in 2002 as compared to this year. As per the Government's report for the submission of the year 2002 draft budget to Parliament, the expenditures for salaries and other remunerations project an increase of the pay-roll in the judiciary by some 800. So, the magistrates cannnot be but pleased with the Government's lavishness.The Council of Ministers has also left to the judicial power a loophole for raising the money which it could spend throuout the year if more proceeds are collected from court and notary fees. In 2001 judicial authorities received more than BGL39MN from their services. The SJC itself pre-estimated its 2002 proceeds from such activities at BGL41MN. Under the practice so far, all money above the planned budget proceeds into the judiciary went to the Republcian budget.In March 2001 the magistrates lobbied in front of 59 MPs to present to the Constitutional Court a claim for adjudicating that practice contradictory to the Constitution. However, their initiative failed as on June 16, 2001, the Constitutional Court extended a ruling that the provisions in the National Budget Act, entitling the government to collect from the judicial power the proceeds, exceeding its planned incomes, were not anti-constitutional.So, the Government could well collect these proceeds from the judiciary next year, but it made a gesture to the magistrates, deciding to leave into SJC's accounts all their proceeds from court and notary fees. Such a curtsy has not been made by the former premier Ivan Ksotov's cabinet. Moreover, the SJC will already have the opportunity to decide itself how to distribute these proceeds. In other words, the Government has this time granted financial independence to the judicial power and if it succeeds to make good calculations, it will not have to beg the Finance Ministry for additional funds.