High Court judge Vashiest Kokaram has called on suspended deputy chairman of the Integrity Commission Gladys Gafoor to "exercise restraint" when talking to the press.
Kokaram, sitting at the Hall of Justice, in Port of Spain was commenting yesterday on a Newsday article published on June 19, which was brought to his attention by Deborah Peake SC, counsel to the Integrity Commission.
Gafoor gave an interview to the newspaper in which she disclosed that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had asked her to quit her post and also advised on the appointment of a legal team to represent her in a lawsuit against the Commission.
Peake said it was not appropriate for a litigant to be giving an interview while the matter was being heard before the court. Kokaram said that Gafoor was "not an ordinary litigant" but Peake insisted that there is a subjudice rule that everyone knows and respects.
She pointed out that if journalists seek out interviews, they cannot be blamed but it is the responsibility of the litigant to not speak to the press.
Peake said the allegations made were against the country's sitting Attorney General, in a series of articles published exclusively in the Newsday newspaper.
Kokaram said that it was his concern about the integrity of the judicial process that prompted his ruling for the case documents to be public.
He said as an "experienced judicial officer" he expected Gafoor and her counsel to exercise restraint as it was not a case "being conducted in Woodford Square."
As a litigant in the country's High Court, he pointed out, Gafoor has asked for due process in her matter and he asked that she "also respect due process before the court."
Kokaram also called on the press to be "vigilant and responsible" as he had put his faith in journalists "for fair and accurate reporting."
He asked that the press stick to contemporaneous reporting of court proceedings and for "dignified restraint" of commentary in a case before the court.
During yesterday's hearing, Avory Sinanan SC, counsel for the Attorney General accused Gafoor of an "abuse of process" by filing a constitutional motion challenging the President decision to appoint a disciplinary tribunal.
Sinanan insisted the President (George Maxwell Richards) followed proper procedure when he invited Gafoor for a chat to discuss the concerns of the fellow commissioners. He pointed out that decision to suspend Gafoor was "in the interest of the whole administration and there can be no complaint about that."
He said the President has acted fairly in appointing the tribunal.
Peake, whose client the Integrity Commission is an interested party in the constitutional motion proceedings, stated that this case was "one of a kind" as the President's actions have never been challenged before. She criticised the lack of evidence presented by Gafoor while producing her own "factual matrix" of newspaper articles in which she contented that Gafoor "knew full well" the allegations levelled against her.
Richards has asked the members of the tribunal, chaired by former chief justice and president of Caribbean Court of Justice Michael de la Bastide, to inquire into complaints by Integrity Commission chairman Ken Gordon and commissioners Neil Rolingson and Dr Ann Marie Bissessar.
The dispute between Gafoor and her fellow commissioners arose when former attorney general John Jeremie wrote to the Commission on November 15, 2011 requesting that Gafoor and commissioner Seunarine Jokhoo recuse themselves from hearing a matter against him (Jeremie).
The other members of the Commission agreed with Jeremie on December 19, 2010 and Jokhoo recused himself. Gafoor, however, refused to follow suit.
Among the issues to be investigated is Gafoor's alleged refusal to return confidential documents of the Commission provided to her in the course of the Commission's business, behaving in an intimidatory manner towards fellow commissioners and staff of the Commission, conducting herself in a manner to undermine the authority of the Commission and breaching the confidentiality of the Commission.
The tribunal is also required to determine, among other things, whether Gafoor should be removed from office.
Tomorrow, attorneys will make submissions on a separate lawsuit challenging the majority decision by the Commission on December 19, 2010 forcing her to recuse herself in the matter involving Jeremie from 2 p.m.
Kokaram said he expects to have a judgment on July 12 at 11 a.m.