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Delayed justice is denied justice

19 May 2019 at 15:50 | 865 views

Opinion

Delayed justice is denied justice

By Kortor Kamara, USA

It’s being exactly a month since the Chief Justice rendered his ruling allowing for the High Court to proceed with hearing the petition cases against some 16 APC members of parliament.

Section 78(1) (2) of the Sierra Leone constitution clearly states: “(1) The High Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine any question whether -
a) any person has been validly elected as a Member of Parliament; and
b) the seat of a Member of Parliament has become vacant.

“(2) The High Court to which any question is brought under subsection (1) shall determine the said question and give judgement thereon within four months after the commencement of the proceedings before that Court.”

While the above quoted sections 78(1) (2) of the 1991 constitution have now been interpreted by the Chief Justice of the Sierra Leone Supreme Court, in his ruling on April 4, 2019, the tolling of the 4 months period for issuance of judgement in the petition cases has now ceased.

The Chief Justice in his ruling stated that all petition cases, initially filed in April, 2018 can now proceed at the High Court and verdicts accordingly rendered.

The genesis of the Chief Justice’s ruling emanated from an objection and challenge to the constitutional provisions of section 78 (1)(2) by lawyer for APC- petitioned MP Timbo. Attorneys for MP Timbo argued that the 4 months statutory bar for issuance of judgements in petition cases had expired and thus requested the Supreme Court to issue a determination on the matter.

As could be recalled by court watchers, petitions were timely filed against 16 APC members of parliament in April, 2018. Proceedings were set on November 12, 2018 at the High Court. However, during the start of the hearings attorneys for MP Timbo and other APC MPs, objected and obtained a stay of hearing pending interpretation by the Supreme Court of section 78(1)(2).

Since the operative clause in sub section 2(1) of section 78 is the issuance of judgement “within 4 months after commencement of proceedings”, the Chief Justice was correct in interpreting the law that the petition cases must proceed to finality. The constitutional provision of 4 months is precedent to the commencement of hearings in the petition cases.

The question anxiously awaiting answer by all Sierra Leoneans is how soon will the High Court Judges now issue their final rulings?

Firstly, the judges despite having had the cases stayed due to the respondents petition to the Supreme Court on a constitutional interpretation issue, should be au fait with the evidence and totality of the cases and thus should not have to spend another 4 months to issue their verdicts.

Secondly, the evidence of especially receiving of state funds from the consolidated funds, levied against most of the 16 APC MPs should be easily proven and thus not requiring an inordinate amount of time to render judgements.

Thirdly, the Judiciary’s penchant for delaying the dispensation of justice remains a cause of grave concern in Sierra Leone.

There is also the small issue of costs. By their inordinate adjournment requests, frivolous objections and stay of proceedings in this matter, the petitioned APC MPs have continued collecting salaries from the consolidated fund, which they otherwise will not be entitled. Hope at conclusion of these cases the people of Sierra Leone will be made whole, during cost hearing, as directed in the Chief Justice ruling.

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