Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng defends a speech he gave in Stellenbosch last week about religion and the law during a news conference in Johannesburg, Wednesday, 4 June 2014.He caused a stir by suggesting religion could be used to strengthen legislation and lead to a better society. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg - The office of the chief justice will receive its own budget for the first time this year as part of moves to protect the independence of the judiciary, Beeld reported on Thursday.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene allocated R5.2 billion for the medium-term.

This meant the office of the chief justice would pay the salaries of judges in high courts, instead of the justice department.

University of Cape Town constitutional expert Christopher Oxtoby said the chief justice having control over his budget helped prevent other organs of state influencing the courts by withholding money.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's spokesman, Nathi Ncube, said all functions “relating to high courts would be transferred to us”.

The director-general would be known as the secretary-general and would still report to the justice minister.

Beeld said this could create conflict between Mogoeng and the minister because Mogoeng had already spoken out about the minister's official working out of his offices.

Nene said R492 million would also be prioritised to improve access to justice.