WARSAW — Poland’s Supreme Court on Thursday said it was suspending the forced early retirement of judges over the age of 65, adding that it had asked the European Court of Justice to weigh in on the matter.
The retirement law introduced by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party as part of a raft of controversial judicial reforms is at the centre of a dispute between the government and the European Union.
The PiS insists the judicial changes tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by Poland’s communist era.
But the opposition, democracy watchdogs and the European Union have warned they undermine judicial independence, the rule of law and democracy.
The President’s office immediately responded that the suspension had "no legal basis and has no effect on the President or any other organ".
"The Supreme Court has doubts and is presenting its doubts to an outside independent organ that was set up according to EU treaties to resolve such doubts," court spokesman Michal Laskowski told reporters.
Brussels triggered Article Seven proceedings against Poland in December over the judicial changes, which could eventually see Warsaw’s EU voting rights suspended.
The EU also launched legal action against Poland over the Supreme Court retirement rules that could see the country receive financial sanctions.
The retirement law came into effect last month and lowers the pension age of judges from 70 to 65.
It affects 27 of the Supreme Court’s sitting 73 judges including chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who has refused to step down, slamming the measure as a "purge" that breaches her constitutionally guaranteed six-year term ending in 2020.
The law allows the affected judges to ask the President to be able to continue to perform their duties, a decision taken by 16 judges. — AFP