Wednesday 4th October, 2006

 

D-Day for CJ Sharma

 
 
 
 
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Satnarine Sharma

By Jada Loutoo

in London

Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma’s fate now lies in the hands of five British Law Lords who are expected to rule on whether the judiciary’s chief can be arrested on the criminal charge that hangs over his head.

Hearing of the appeal brought by Sharma ends today at the London Privy Council with lawyers for the State responding to arguments presented to the court yesterday by the Chief Justice’s lead attorney, Andrew Mitchell, QC.

It is not certain if the Law Lords will give their decision today. If not, their judgment in the matter is expected to be delivered before the end of the month.

Sharma, who was at the Privy Council on Downing Street in London, sat in the courtroom together with his wife, Kalawaty, listening to the proceedings.

The Chief Justice, who has been suspended from office by President George Maxwell Richards, has challenged the decision by the Court of Appeal to set aside the leave granted to him to have the decision to prosecute him reviewed by the courts.

In July, Court of Appeal judges Margot Warner, Ivor Archie and Paula Mae Weekes paved the way for Sharma to be arrested on a criminal charge alleging that he attempted to sway the decision of Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in the case against former prime minister Basdeo Panday.

Mitchell told the court that Sharma was only trying to stop a politically-motivated criminal prosecution, which, he said, had the potential of ruining the CJ’s career.

He told the five Law Lords not to lose sight of who is seeking judicial review.

“This should not be treated lightly...We have an appellant seeking to stop a criminal prosecution in its tracks which has the potential to ruin his career,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell submitted that the five injunctions granted to Sharma by Justice Judith Jones be reinstated and the High Court be allowed to review the decision to charge him.

Mitchell said there were political overtones in this decision which was driven by Attorney General John Jeremie and Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

Mitchell said Manning had predicted the CJ’s removal even before a case had been made out by the police, referring to Manning’s statement to Sharma, telling him to resign or face criminal prosecution.

“The Prime Minister predicted the removal of the Chief Justice by July 31,” Mitchell said.

Sharma has also alleged that the Chief Magistrate’s complaint against him arose as a result of his (Mc Nicolls) wanting to avoid investigation into a land transaction.

Mitchell said it was only when Mc Nicolls was confronted by Sharma about the land deal did the Chief Magistrate write to the Prime Minister alleging interference by Sharma in the Panday case.

Mitchell said the Chief Magistrate, instead of going to the Prime Minister with his complaint about Sharma, should have referred the matter to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission or the police.

He labeled Manning, Jeremie and Mc Nicolls as members of an “unholy trinity,” all of whom he said wanted to remove Sharma from office.

Mitchell also accused Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Carla Browne-Antoine of being politically influenced.

“The way the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions went about her duties was politically influenced,” he said.

He also questioned why did Commissioner of Police Trevor Paul, in the face of several court orders, go on a Friday evening to arrest Sharma at his home, at which time no justice of the peace or magistrate would be available to grant bail.

He said the police should have gone by way of a summons and should not have sought an arrest warrant for Sharma.

Mitchell said Sharma was right to seek the court’s intervention if he felt the decision to prosecute him was politically motivated.

Sir Godfrey Le Quesne, who leads the case for Browne-Antoine, said there was nothing which gave rise to the suspicion of political interference as is alleged by Sharma.

Sharma, who has been out of the public’s view since the attempt to arrest him on July 14, appeared to be in good spirits yesterday.

He declined to speak to reporters as he left the Privy Council on Downing Street, Central London, but is expected to return today when lawyers for the State continue to present their arguments before the British Law Lords.

 

 

 

 

 

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