Thursday 1st March, 2007

 

Manning goes after CJ Sharma...again

 
 
 
 
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Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma leaves the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court yesterday, after his main accuser Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls failed to show up to testify. Photo: Jennifer Watson

By Jada Loutoo

PRIME Minister Patrick Manning has bowled another sharp rising bouncer at Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma by resuming impeachment proceedings against the already-suspended head of the judiciary.

Manning has written to Sharma informing him of a decision to resume the process he began last year, under Section 137 of the Constitution—a move sparked by complaints by Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls that Sharma tried to unduly influence the outcome of the integrity trial against former prime minister Basdeo Panday.

Sharma has already been charged with perverting the course of public justice as it relates to Mc Nicolls’ complaints and is before the courts on a criminal prosecution. (SEE OTHER STORY)

But, the Prime Minister last week resumed play and has given Sharma 14 days to respond to Mc Nicolls’ allegations in the newest move to impeach.

The legal quagmire involving attempts to remove Sharma from office began in 2004, when Manning advised President President George Maxwell Richards to set up a tribunal to investigate whether the CJ should be removed from office.

This arose out of similar complaints against Sharma by Attorney General John Jeremie and DPP Geoffrey Henderson of interference in the preliminary inquiry into the murder of Dr Chandra Naraynsingh.

In a letter to Sharma, obtained by the Guardian—dated February 21—Manning informed the CJ that, after receiving legal advice, he was now “considering whether the Chief Magistrate’s complaint has a prima facie sufficient basis in fact and is sufficiently serious to warrant the making of representation to his Excellency the President that the question of removing you from office ought to be investigated.”

Section 137 (3) outlines the procedure for setting up a tribunal to investigate the removal of the Chief Justice, once the Prime Minister advises the President to do so.

Contacted yesterday, Sharma said he had nothing to say.

But sources in his legal camp said the latest move by the executive was an “oppressive one,” intent at destroying the CJ’s reputation.

Sharma was suspended from office by President George Maxwell Richards.

The charge:

That Satnarine Sharma, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature of T&T, of 12 St Andrews Terrace, Private Road, Fairways, Maraval, between Tuesday, February 28, 2006, and Wednesday, March 29, 2006, with intent to pervert the course of public justice by the improper influencing of the Chief Magistrate, Mr Sherman Mc Nicolls, with respect to his decision in the trial of Basdeo Panday on charges of knowingly making false declarations contrary to section 27 (1) (b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, 1987 then being heard by the said Chief Magistrate, did a series of acts which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, namely he, the said Satnarine Sharma, did attempt to influence the said Chief Magistrate to make a decision in favour of the defendant in the said trial in that he, the said Satnarine Sharma, did commend the defence case to the said Chief Magistrate; told the said Chief Magistrate of points in favour of the defence which he must note in his judgment; direct the said Chief Magistrate to find the evidence of a defence witness to be truthful; and direct the said Chief Magistrate to show him a draft of the said Chief Magistrate’s judgment before he delivered it.

(Mc Nicolls convicted Panday on all three counts of failing to declare a London bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, ’98 and ’99.

The politician was sentenced to two years’ jail time and ordered to repay more than $1.8 million to the State.

He was jailed after being denied bail, but was eventually released and is awaiting a decision in his appeal.)

BLOW BY BLOW

  • April 1, 2005—Prime Minister Patrick Manning announces in Parliament of a decision to advise President Richards to set up a tribunal to investigate whether CJ Satnarine Sharma should be removed from office.
  • April 13, 2005—Sharma fired a full-scale legal attack to block the Government’s investigation of his actions in office on allegations that he attempted to induce DPP Geoffrey Henderson and AG John Jeremie to drop a murder charge against Dr Vijay Naraynsingh. The latter was subsequently cleared of the charges.
  • April 16, 2005—President Richards announces decision to hold his hand on appointing a three-member tribunal to investigate Sharma’s actions in office.
  • October 25, 2005 —Matter entered mediation stage, before the judicial review application filed by Sharma went to trial.
  • January, 2006 —Mediation talks break down.
  • May 5, 2006—Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls complains that Sharma tried to influence his decision in the Basdeo Panday trial.
  • May 8, 2006—Sharma writes to Judicial and Legal Services Commission complaining that Mc Nicolls used his position to have the land deal settled in his favour and that he maliciously lied to Prime Minister Patrick Manning after he was confronted on the transaction by Sharma.
  • May 10, 2006—Sharma alleges Manning issued him an ultimatum: resign or be charged.
  • May 11, 2006 —Sharma files judicial review proceedings blocking any further proceedings against him under Section 137.
  • May 11, 2006—The police begin investigations into Mc Nicolls’ allegations. ACP Wellington Virgil is appointed to head the probe. Police search Sharma office days later.
  • June, 2006—JLSC appoints Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer to investigate Sharma’s allegations against Mc Nicolls. Mc Nicolls was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.
  • July 10, 2006—Sharma fires pre-emptive strike, temporarily blocking criminal charges from being laid against him arising out of Mc Nicolls’ complaint.
  • July 14, 2006—Police unsuccessfully attempt to arrest Sharma at his Fairways, Maraval, home. Criminal charges are laid against him.
  • July 28, 2006—Sharma is suspended and Justice Roger Hamel Smith has been appointed to act as CJ until the determination of all legal proceedings involving the complaint by Mc Nicolls.
  • July 31, 2006—Court of Appeal rules in State’s favour and paves the way for Sharma’s arrest by lifting a series of injunctions granted by a High Court judge. He appeals to the London Privy Council.
  • November 30, 2006 —London Privy Council rules against Sharma and he gives himself up to the police.
  • February 26, 2007—Criminal prosecution against Sharma begins before Senior Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim.
©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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