The National Assembly has never been asked to identify candidates for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), according to Speaker Raphael Trotman, who says it would be willing and able to do its duty when required.
Trotman made this disclosure in response to comments made by attorney Christopher Ram in a commentary over the weekend on the fallout from the disbarment of Court of Appeal judge Rabi Sukul.
Ram noted that the Constitu-tion provides for the JSC to comprise not less than five and not more than six persons made up of three ex officio members–the Chancellor as Chairman, the Chief Justice and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission–and not less than two or more than three persons appointed by the President. Of the appointed members, one must either hold or had held the position of a judge and is appointed after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, while the other one or two must be non-practising attorneys-at-law chosen by the National Assembly after consultation with legal professional bodies.
On the latter point, Ram said that the National Assembly seems never to have been aware of its duty to consult and make recommendations to the President and he added that it reflects poorly not only on Speaker Trotman but also on the acting Chancellor Carl Singh.
In a press release issued on Tuesday night, Trotman said that the views expressed in the media reports, though taken to be well-intentioned, raise some issues that require clarification, including about his role.
“At the outset it is to be stated and understood that there is no involvement of the Speaker of the National Assembly in the process of making the appointments,” he said.
He explained that the Article 198 (b) of the Constitution requires the National Assembly to “meaningfully” consult bodies that appear to represent Attorneys-at-Law and signify its choice to the President. Once the process is completed, he added, the Clerk of the National Assembly communicates the decisions to the President. He further noted that the usual manner in which the National Assembly makes recommendations of this nature is that it responds when the appropriate body makes requests of it on occasions when vacancies arise.
Since the introduction of Article 119C, as part of the constitutional reforms of 2001, Trotman said, “there has been no request made of the National Assembly to identify candidates for the Judicial Service Commission; nevertheless the National Assembly is ready, willing and able to do its duty when required.”
According to Trotman, the Committee on Appointments of the National Assembly does this process of consultations and nominations. He said that this Committee is a bi-partisan Standing Committee that is established by Article 119C of the Constitution and Standing Order 84, and has a specific responsibility for “…initiating or otherwise taking such actions or addressing such matters as may be entrusted to the Committee by the National Assembly in respect of functions required to be discharged by the National Assembly under the Constitution in relation to the appointment of a member for a Committee established under the Constitution.”
Trotman said too that the Committee reports to the National Assembly, which, once satisfied, adopts the report of the Committee. At present, he said, the Committee is working assiduously to fulfill its mandate of identifying the members of the various constitutional commissions that have requested that members be identified.