United National Congress (UNC) activist Devant Maharaj is calling on judicial officers who received their appointments, while the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) was improperly constituted, to resign.
Luis Alfredo Farache
Maharaj made the call during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain, hours after the Privy Council upheld his constitutional lawsuit over the composition of the five-member committee.
Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf
While he admitted that the judgment did not invalidate previous appointments made by the JLSC, when it was improperly constituted, Maharaj still maintained that the judicial officers should take a “moral decision” to resign
“They were appointed under a flawed, unconstitutional and unlawful JLSC. If they are to be persons sworn to uphold and protect the constitution they can not begin their office by breaching it,” Maharaj said
He also suggested that the action was necessary to help improve public confidence in the Judiciary
Maharaj repeatedly praised High Court Judge Frank Seepersadwho had initially granted him leave to pursue the claim and an injunction preventing the appointment of two new judges in 2016
” I must remind you that Justice Seepersad was vilified by persons in the media, he was accused of having a pre-written judgment and of having political associations,” Maharaj said as he suggested that Seepersad’s handling of the case was vindicated as the Privy Council essentially upheld his findings
He also claimed that the result showed the importance of keeping the Privy Council as this country’s final appellate court
“It underscores the point that T&T must not be hurry to give up the Privy Council for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) because of the judgements we are seeing overturned on a regular basis,” he said
British Queen’s Counsel Richard Clayton, who led Maharaj’s legal team on appeal, was present for the conference and claimed that the judgment was important for the country’s democracy
“Basically, there is now input from people who are not judges in the selection of the High Court. That must inevitably mean that you have a more participative and representative group of people making the selection,” Clayton said
It underscores the point that T&T must not be hurry to give up the Privy Council for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) because of the judgements we are seeing overturned on a regular basis
Although the President and not the Chief Justice is not responsible for JLSC appointments, UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen maintained that the case was another reason for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to institute impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ivor Archie
“The time has come for those who are responsible for action to be held responsible for what transpired. The judges, magistrates and masters are not at fault for the fact that they are the subject of an appointment that is not in accordance with the Constitution or law,” Ramdeen said