GT: Travesty in the Guyana Judiciary
- September 29, 2007For immediate releaseContact: Robert AntoineDirector of Communications and International AffairsCGID flays Guyana Judicial Commission over victimization of Chief MagistrateChief Magistrate Juliet Holder-AllenBrooklyn , New York: The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) today called for the reinstatement of Guyana 's Chief Magistrate (CM), Juliet Holder-Allen, and accused Guyana 's Judicial Service Commission of conducting a political witch hunt against the Chief Magistrate. CGID also released a report on the contentious battle between the Commission and Holder-Allen. The report culminated a three-month investigation into the process that led to the institution of disciplinary charges against Holder-Allen and her unlawful removal from office, allegedly for politically expedient reasons.A September 29, CGID statement quoted its President, Rickford Burke, as saying 'The evidence has led us to conclude that Chief Magistrate Holder-Allen's removal from office was a politically motivated, premeditated intervention into the criminal justice system by persons who seek to control that office, probably to protect certain interests.'Burke contended that the actions of the JSC seemed politically coerced and that the deprivation of the Chief Magistrate's constitutional rights was being machiavellianly navigated in the judiciary so as to avert the possibility of her lawsuit being heard by an independent-minded Judge.On October 29, 2004 , the Commission instituted disciplinary charges against the CM and then invoked its powers under Article 199 (2) of the Constitution and appointed a delegate to conduct a hearing into the charges. The CM was charged with (I) being insubordinate to former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Desiree Bernard, by referring to her as a 'solicitor.' (II) causing undue delay in the administration of justice by transferring her cases on September 6, 2004, to another Magistrate ( III ) using inappropriate language ('backside') to a witness, Debra Duff, in her court room on December 15, 2004 (IV) attempting to obstruct the course of justice by counseling Acting Magistrate Bertlyn Reynolds on September 17, 2004 , about a decision in which she erred in law, and (V) allegedly calling Ms. Bibi Shadeek, then a Minister of the government, on the telephone and threatening to 'deal with her.'On charge one, the Institute said its investigation found that i n sworn testimony before the court, Chancellor Bernard denied that she had filed a complaint against the CM, and as such, there was no legal basis for the charge. The Institute cited Nicholson v. Booth (1888), Ridge v. Baldwin (Lords 1964) and Union of India vs. T.R. Verma ( AIR 1957 SC 882), all of which established that the fundamental principles of natural justice require the presence of a complaint containing a specific allegation of wrongdoing, and that the accused must be given the allegation and afforded an opportunity to respond before any disciplinary action can be taken.CGID argued that charge two is baseless as there was no complaint and that the JSC failed to demonstrate how the administration of justice was unduly delayed by the CM's actions. It contended that the Commission brought this charge after the publication of a newspapers article on the issue. 'This allegation is based entirely on hearsay from a newspaper article, and is unworthy of the attention of the law ( de minimis non curat lex), CGID said.The Institute said that the Chief Magistrate denied charge three and was adamant that Ms. Duff was being mischievous, after appearing in her court on December 15, 2004, on assault charges. The Institute faulted the JSC for not first verifying the veracity of the allegation. 'Rather, in its apparent zeal to 'get' the CM, the Commission instituted this charge on the basis of a frivolous, unverified, uncorroborated complaint from a disaffected criminal indictee,' the Institute added. Duff subsequently withdrew her complaint.On charge four, CGID found that in sworn testimony before the High Court, Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, admitted that Magistrate Reynolds never made a complaint against the CM. 'There is therefore no basis for the JSC to prefer this charge. It is false and must be dismissed,' the organization maintained.The Chief Magistrate denied charge five, saying Shadeek 'Cannot profess to be an authority on what my voice may sound like over the telephone.' She also said that the telephone number referred to in the complaint was unknown to her. In its findings, CGID noted that 'Shadeek's complaint was unverifiable and lacked basis in fact and evidence, and that in preferring this charge, the Commission made a mockery of due process and natural justice under law.'CGID said that the disciplinary process against the CM was unjust and repugnant to the Constitution. The Institute flayed the Commission for accepting what it called 'hearsay, uncorroborated and extremely prejudicial allegations as adjudicative facts upon which it based its charges.'Underscoring the illegalities of the case, Burke said that 'According to the 'poisonous tree' doctrine, the unconstitutionality of the process that produced the charges renders every other act that flowed therefrom illegal. He said that the genesis of the case was rooted in illegality as 'The very meeting of the Commission at which the charges were decided was apparently unconstitutional.Burke said that Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, admitted that Chief Justice Carl Sing chaired the said meeting of the Commission, and pointed out that the constitution mandates the Chancellor to be Chairman of the JSC, not the Chief Justice. He said that there is no provision for the Chief Justice to be deputized as Chairman. Burke said the other Commissioners who attended the meeting were Ret. Justice Prem Persaud and Attorney-at-Law Brynmore Pollard. He however asserted that 'The law prohibits Justice Persaud from sitting on the JSC.'The Institute in its report said that Ret. Justice Prem Persaud, by virtue of being Chairman of the Public Utility Commission (PUC), is prohibited from serving in any other position in the government, in accordance with Section 7 (2) of the PUC Act. Noting that Persaud was deliberately violating the law, Burke said 'This entire matter reeks of ostensible corruption and illegalities. It is especially repugnant when such conduct is alleged against a judicial body,' he noted.Commenting on what he called the Commission's 'trumped-up charges' Burke said 'the allegations against the CM are so rife of frivolity that it reads like a byline from a 'comedic soap opera.' He argued that the Guyanese nation was embarrassed by the obtuse and de minimis allegations of the government, albeit false, in its attempt to oust the Chief Magistrate.The CGID report slammed Justice William Ramlall's dismissal of the CM's constitutional challenge, asserting that it was 'a parody of the law' and 'repugnant to natural justice and Constitution.' Condemning Justice Ramlall's imposition of a One Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars ($150, 000.00) fine on the CM, the Institute warned that 'The exercise of one's constitutional and fundamental rights in Guyana continues to be stymied by the insidious actions and instrumentalities of a coerced judiciary.'It said the Judge's decision to punish the CM for defending her constitutional right was an act of judicial retribution designed to chasten the CM because she challenged the deprivation of her constitutional rights. The Institute also argued that Justice William Ramlal was not lawfully eligible to hear the case as he was connected to the case of the Police V. Jennifer Singh, a criminal matter that was sub judice before the Chief Magistrate at the time.The CGID report said that acting Chancellor, Chief Justice Carl Singh, openly exercises political loyalty to the government and appeared inclined to be the PPP's enforcer in the judiciary rather than uphold the constitution. CGID found that complaints of political interference, ethnic prejudice and corruption in the Judiciary were prevalent, and observed that the removal the Chief Magistrate, on false, politically motivated charges 'is a manifestation of political meddling and bigotry run amok.'The Institute said that 'There are allegations that Chief Justice Carl Singh, in exercising his constitutional functions in the interest of the government, has circulated a 'document' to High Court Judges which directs them to indicate how they intend to rule in certain cases.' This, the Institute said, 'would be in violation of Article 122 A (1) of the constitution, if proven.' The institute is now calling for an independent inquiry into this allegation.It also said that 'Chief Justice Carl Singh by virtue of occupying both the office of Chancellor and that of Chief Justice was violating Articles 127 and 122 of the constitution. 'The two positions are independent and separate constitutional entities and were not contemplated to be conflated in one person. Their fusion violates the constitution,' the New York Group contended.The organization said that there is a consensus that under the tenure of Chief Justice Carl Singh the judiciary has become heavily politicized and expressed concern that his continuation at the head of the Judiciary will have adverse implications for the impartial administration of justice. The Institute thus called on Opposition Leader, Robert Corbin, to reject any proposition to appoint Justice Carl Singh as Chancellor.President of the CGID, Rickford Burke observed that 'The Judicial commission abrogated its constitutional duty to preserve fairness and balance in its jurisprudential approach to decision making and, in so doing, abused its power and became an instrument of governmental victimization. He said that members of the Judiciary have express incredulity at the Commission's impenitent disregard for truth, law and procedure in this case. Burke stressed that 'the custodians of the constitution, democracy and good governance must uphold and defend the constitution and the noble principles of human rights and social justice.'The Institute hereby releases the attached Report titled: ' Travesty in the Guyana Judiciary: The case of the Chief Magistrate V. the Judicial Service Commission
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