Japan scraps bill to extend retirement age of prosecutors

The Japanese government and the ruling coalition have decided to scrap a controversial bill intended to extend the retirement age of public prosecutors amid a backlash from opposition parties and the public.

Prior to the Public Prosecutors’ Office Act being dropped on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had postponed seeking its passage amid accusations it would give the Cabinet too much influence over the judiciary and undermine the the independence of prosecutors, reports Xinhua news agency.

The proposed revision of the Public Prosecutors Office Law had been met with condemnation from the opposition camp and the public, who stood against the plan to raise the retirement age for prosecutors to 65.

Many opposed to the bill believed the move would undermine the independence of prosecutors, with a clause in the bill allowing the Cabinet to extent the retirement age of senior prosecutors by up to three further years causing a furor.

The opposition camp and the public said that the bill would not only undermine prosecutors’ independence, but could also lead to the partisan appointment of personnel being made by the government.

The planned retirement of Hiromu Kurokawa, the former head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office who resigned after a gambling scandal, was, at the time, postponed until August, which was six months after his due retirement age, following a decision made by the government in January.

Kurokawa was seen to be the preferred candidate to become the next prosecutor general by Abe.

The decision, however, was rebuked by opposition parties and the public, with claims made that by dubiously changing the interpretation of the law, Kurokawa’s tenure could have been extended.

The controversy over the contentious bill has, along with the denouncement from opposition parties, drawn a lot of vocal criticism from the public and high profile celebrities, who have been ardently calling for the bill to be permanently scrapped.

The Japanese hashtag meaning “I oppose the revision of the public prosecutors office law” began trending on Twitter from May 8, and attracted increasing support of celebrities as well as members of the public.