Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday he was grateful Chief Justice Ivor Archie has cleared the air on a Guardian newspaper report of an alleged plot by the State to get rid of him.
“I am grateful that he clarified, that he did not in fact make any statement that there was any plot by the Government to get rid of him,” Ramlogan said.
He labelled the report as “an example of erroneous
and mischievous reporting”, adding both he and the Government enjoy an excellent working relationship with the CJ.
He said a significantly increased budget for the judiciary under the current administration bears testimony to the solid support given to the judiciary by the Government.
Ramlogan said while he was satisfied Archie has taken “the bull by the horns to deal with this vexing question of delayed judgement”, the situation was one where “one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch”.
“Chief justices have been far too lenient with errant judges and that has contributed in no small way to the present problem,” he said, adding: “Many have shied away from confronting this controversial issue.”
Ramlogan warned there must be accountability and evaluation of performance in every sphere of public life where public funds are spent, adding, “The judiciary is no exception, and I am happy that the Chief Justice was humble and straightforward and did not confuse a legitimate call for accountability and better performance with the trite response about interference and independence.”
He believes the present CJ has done a lot to tackle the backlog and improve the administration of justice and said it augurs well for the future that the CJ acknowledges the problems.
But, Ramlogan added, “There is obviously room for improvement.”
Ramlogan pointed to a previous era when he said former AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj had locked horns and got into a disagreement with a former CJ, Michael de la Bastide, and the government at the time was forced to appoint a commission of enquiry to deal with some of these issues, including delayed judgments.
“It created a confrontational and adversarial climate and did much damage,” the AG said, adding he once served as junior counsel to the Lord McKay Commission of Enquiry and distinctly recalled Dr LM Singhvi advocating the practice in India be adopted in Trinidad whereby the names of judges with judgments outstanding for more than six months be published in the newspapers.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and whilst these short-term measures will deal with the present backlog, there must be clearly identified measures and benchmarks to prevent a recurrence and to have sustained optimum performance by every judge,” Ramlogan said.
He added while cases varied in complexity and novelty and whilst realistic timelines may vary, six to 12 months is more than adequate as the Privy Council normally gives judgments within three months from the date of hearing an appeal.
He believes there must also be proper sanctions and disciplinary measures for those who do not pull their weight since it weighs down the many judges who go beyond the call of duty and perform beyond optimum capacity.
Ramlogan recalled an instance where a judge had been allowed to retire with his full benefits, despite the fact he had a sizeable number of reserved judgments. He explained this particular judge is now being appointed for one day at given intervals to deliver judgments in matters that are over ten years old.
“I think it is constitutionally improper and plainly wrong. It sends the wrong signal to the judiciary that such misconduct will not result in any serious disciplinary action.
The issue of delayed judgments is one that touches me at a personal level since my law firm serviced the poor and downtrodden from all walks of life in this country.”