THAI JUDGES are over-paid while court fees stay relatively low by global standard, said TDRI researchers who propose that the Court of Justice should revamp judges’ salaries and court fee to reflect the real costs of litigation and boost judicial efficiency.
Nonarit Bisonyabut, a research fellow at Thailand Development Research Institure (TDRI) and the leader of a study on the fee system at Thai courts, said the Thai Court of Justice should apply an economics principle to their judicial management in order to improve efficicency. “ When taking into account the economics principle and international standard, Thai judges are over paid,” he said.
The average income of Thai judges is Bt662,049 per annum while Thailand’s GDP per capital stands at Bt 220,431 per annum, meaning that in comparsion a Thai judge’s annual income is three times that of the country’s GDP per capita, he said, referring to statistic compiled by Salaryexpert.com.
In the US, the average income of a judge is $97,882 while the GDP per capita stands at $57,467, so the annual income of a judge is just 1.7 times of its GDP per capita. The average income of a judge in the United Kingdom is 50,215 pound against its GDP per capita of 29,346 pound, making the income of a judge 1.71 times of the country’s GDP per capita.
Judges in the UK and US also deal with more legal cases than Thai judges. Thus it is not reasonable that a Thai judge income is three times of the national GDP per capita. It should be capped at about 1.7 times of GDP per capita as in the US and UK, said Nonarit.
Its has been said that judges should be paid well as an incentive for them to stay honest.
Nonarit, however, said that the court should not only use carrot, it should also apply stick to shape the behaviour of the judges in order to ensure fairness to tax payers.
The study also found that Thailand’s court fee are relatively low at just 2 per cent of the amount in dispute under Bt 50 million; and 0.1 per cent of the disputed amounts exceeding Bt50 million.
Thai court fee should be raised to between 3 to 5 per cent of the amount in dispute in order to cover the cost of legal service, he said.
Currently, the Court of Justice allocates about Bt9 billion annually for the management of civil court matters: justice service for private companies or individuals filing civil law suits to the court to settle disputes. However, raising the court fees by a wide margin may run into public opposition, he conceded.
To increase efficiency, Court fee should be raised 4.5 times of the current rate, or 9 per cent of the amount in dispute, he said.
“If the Court of Justice could bring down judge salaries to about 1.7 times of GDP per capita, the court fee may be raised to 5.1 per cent of the amount in dispute,” said Nonarit.
For a legal case that attracts public interest, the Court should waive fee, he suggested. Currently, a judge could waive fee for those deemed poor.
Nonarit also suggested the Court should return the accrued interest deriving from money deposited with the Court, such as collateral for bail.
The study of court fee is sponsored by Rabi Bhadanasak Research and Development Institute, an research arm of the Court of Justice, It will take about a month before final draft could be completed, Nonarit said.