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Legal minds not seeing any plot
Martin Daly, SC, said yesterday it was difficult to see how legitimate complaints about the delay in the delivery of judgments could be termed a plot. The T&T Guardian asked him to comment on the claim reportedly made by Chief Justice Ivor Archie that there is a plot to hound him out of office because of the delay in the delivery of judgments, among other things. “Much of the current agitation was provoked by the Ramnarine case decided in the Privy Council on July 31 this year,” Daly said.
“As I wrote in my weekly column, in the Ramnarine case the Privy Council referred to the delay in that particular matrimonial (matter) as ‘an affront to family justice.’ “I have been trying to find out whether there are any more similar affronts to justice that we don’t know about. I have been agitating that since August.”
The allegation of a plot arose from a number of newspaper stories highlighting the delay by Archie and the Court of Appeal in the delivery of particular judgments, the judiciary’s failure to speed up civil litigation initiated by the Government against former public officials, and Archie’s overseas travel. Asked what might be causing the delay in the delivery of certain judgments, Daly replied, “I don’t know, but it is not acceptable.”
He said he had also suggested a statement on the issue should have been made at the opening of the law term in September. Former CJ and former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Michael de la Bastide, said his impression, based on the speeches of Archie, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was that there was a good relationship between the Executive and the CJ.
“But, again, this is simply on the basis of published statements. I am not privy to what may have been going on behind closed doors,” he added. He stressed that it was “dangerous” to comment without knowing certain facts, and whether the CJ did say what he was reported to have said. “It was said to come from judicial sources. I simply don’t know whether it was an accurate report or not,” he cautioned. “I don’t know if there is a conspiracy and who are the conspirators.”
De la Bastide said if, indeed, Archie did say there was an orchestrated plot to remove him from office, knowing him, it was not something he would have said lightly, and if there were a conspiracy and it was politically generated, it would be a very serious situation. He remarked it did seem odd that, all of a sudden, a number of matters were being ventilated through the media which tended to reflect badly on the CJ.
“I think one is entitled to wonder if it was pure coincidence, or it was being drawn together by a person or persons unknown as a concerted attack on the CJ. “But I have no reliable information on what he said and if he did say something, if there was basis for such a situation.”
Delayed justice main issue
Former chief justice Sat Sharma, whom the Patrick Manning administration sought to remove from office, said he could not see a plot to remove Archie. In 2005, Manning advised President George Maxwell Richards to set up a tribunal to investigate whether Sharma should be removed from office. This came after it was alleged Sharma had tried to exert pressure on then director of public prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson and attorney general John Jeremie to drop a murder charge against Prof Vijay Naraynsingh.
Questioned on a possible plot against Archie, Sharma said: “Where is the plot coming from? The meat of the matter is judgments delayed.” Asked to comment on the delayed judgments, he said, “It’s a long story.” Sharma said he had commented enough and did not wish to comment further.
When Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was Attorney General in 1999, there was a good deal of tension between him and then Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide, the latter recalled yesterday. Ironically, Maharaj is one of the people pointing fingers at the current executive as being behind an alleged conspiracy to remove Archie from office. Tension between the two arms of government, the executive and the judiciary, is not unknown, de la Bastide said.
Noting he did not want to reopen old wounds, he nevertheless recalled the past stand-offs between himself and Maharaj. “When I was chief justice, there were times when there was a good deal of tension between myself and the government, in particular the then attorney general, Ramesh Maharaj,” he said. De la Bastide said it was “a probable attempt to interfere in the management and administration of the judiciary and bring the judiciary under the supervision and control of the attorney general.”
In a speech at the ceremonial opening of the law term in 1999, de la Bastide publicly accused the Basdeo Panday administration of trying to interfere with the independence of the judiciary, saying “powerful forces” were trying to run him out of office. Maharaj at the time was insisting that he was responsible for the judiciary and refused to be a mere “conduit” between Cabinet and the judiciary. De la Bastide, however, held that giving the AG such power would erode the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.
—With reporting by Yvonne Baboolal
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