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It’s not yet time for Govt to act

Published: 
Sunday, June 4, 2017
AG on Judiciary imbroglio:

In spite of the imbroglio that exists in the Judiciary and the historic and unprecedented Law Association vote of no confidence in Chief Justice Ivor Archie which calls for him to step down, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says it is still not time for the Government to intervene.

Responding to the series of events centred around the short-lived appointment and resignation of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar from the bench, Al-Rawi relied on Section 137 of the Constitution of T&T as the basis of his argument. This section deals with the removal of a judge from office.

“There is a fundamental separation of powers we observe. In this country the executive has no role in the Judiciary,” he said in response to questions from the media about the likelihood of the Government making an intervention to settle the issues which have brought the Judiciary under heavy public scrutiny.

“Section 137 of the Constitution is very, very clear as to when an executive gets involved with the Judiciary. Certainly those circumstances are very far away. At least from my position right now, we don’t consider we should get involved in breaching the separation of powers,” he explained.

Prior to a tour of San Fernando West constituency to view infrastructural projects with Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and Mayor Junia Regrello yesterday morning, Al-Rawi said that there was an active democracy in this country.

“Certain quarters have come out and have been very democratic in their purpose, but the Government has no role in the positioning of the Judiciary and certain elements that are questioning the Judiciary,” he said. This was in response to last Thursday’s special general meeting of some 500 members of the Law Association, the majority of which voted in favour of the no-confidence vote in Archie and the JLSC.

Archie, who is currently in Barbados where he is attending a law conference, is quoted as saying, “I don’t think you can expect my resignation.”

The AG said at this point all the Government can do is to take note of the situation and continue to press on with the work they are doing in the development of the courts, in the administration of justice from a legislative point of view in terms of their work in the Parliament.

No PM will venture down that road if it is an exercise in futility—Imran Khan

Commenting on the Government’s position and the section which deals with the removal of a judge from office, former president of the Assembly of Southern Lawyers Imran Khan said it was an extremely high threshold that has to be met and no prime minister would venture down that road if it is an exercise in futility.

He said any government would have limited function in this exercise, because the circumstances in which a judge could be removed are very specific. “Section 137 speaks of the removal of a judge from office based on his inability to perform the functions of his office, arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause, or for misbehaviour. Only if the circumstances fall within those two categories the Government can act.

“In the case of the CJ, as opposed to a normal judge, if the Prime Minister feels there is sufficient information that a particular case falls within that bracket, then he can present to the President the issue of removing the CJ ought to be investigated.”

Khan said what has transpired so far with the Law Association expressing their views on the perceived role of the CJ in the issue—which has left some 53 outstanding cases Ayers-Caesar was presiding over in a tailspin and uncertainty over whether or not she resigned—was only moral suasion.

Khan said in the circumstances there are no compelling information or grounds to suggest that this is an appropriate case for the removal of the judge to be investigated.

Ramesh: Serious implications for independence of Judiciary

Contacted for comment on the issue, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who is being consulted by Ayers-Caesar, said, “I am of the full view that the events which have occurred, which led to the purported removal of the judge, has serious implications for the independence of the Judiciary, rule of law, and security of tenure of a judge.

“I am of the firm view that I have a duty to the legal profession and to the public if necessary to vindicate the Constitution, the rule of law and the injustice which has been done to the population.”

Maharaj said, “I was consulted by the Honourable Justice Madam Marcia Ayers-Caesar whom I believe in law is still a High Court judge.”

He did not say whether she was taking legal action, but promised “to comment in a short space of time”.
 

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