President to move with ‘reasonable speed’ on judicial appointments – Harmon

President David Granger will move with “reasonable speed” on the appointment of judges recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Minister of State Joseph Harmon said yesterday.

The president’s failure to act on the recommended judicial appointments has been highlighted by the opposition PPP/C.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall on Wednesday expressed his concern at the situation and informed that a list was presented to Granger earlier this year. He said based on his understanding, two High Court judges were recommended for elevation to the Court of Appeal and two recommendations were made to fill the vacancies that would be created in the High Court.

However, during a post-Cabinet press briefing, Harmon said whenever documents in relation to the judiciary come to the attention of the president, he “moves with reasonable speed in dealing with those applications.”

“Mr. Nandlall, if he is still the Attorney General, could actually say what list was submitted and when it was submitted and who submitted it and he maybe can give you the names,” he said

Asked if he was saying that no list was submitted to the president, Harmon responded “No, I can’t say nothing was submitted. I am saying to you once it is submitted, the president moves with reasonable speed in dealing with them.”

According to Harmon, government is in consultations “regularly with the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice and what I can assure you is that in a reasonable time, if there are applications for addition to the judiciary, that the president will act.”

He assured that the president will act once the persons who are to be named have gone through a process of being selected and identified by the JSC and the recommendations have come to him.”

Stabroek News has been unable to reach the Chancellor (ag) Justice Carl Singh for a comment on the issue.

The delay in addressing the JSC’s recommendations has raised concerns following a recent statement by Attorney General Basil Williams that the president has discretion in making the appointments.

Williams, in a letter published in the November 18 edition of the Stabroek News, responded to calls by the PPP/C for the president to act on the recommendations by the JSC for appointment of judges.

“Suffice it to say that the Constitution does not impose a timeline on the President to treat with any such recommendation by the JSC and for good reason,” he wrote. “The President must have a higher and perpetual retainer in ensuring that the Judges he appoints are fit and proper, and were selected and recommended after a transparent process.”

This argument was rejected by Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, who pointed out that in 2001 the authority of the JSC had been strengthened and the discretion of the president over appointments was removed.

Ramkarran asserted that Article 128(1) of the Constitution now provides that judges other than the chancellor and chief justice are appointed by the President “who shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.” Article 128(2) also now provides that “the President shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and appoint a person to act in the office of Justice of Appeal or Puisne Judge, as the case may be.”

Nandlall, during an interview with Stabroek News, expressed concern at the Granger administration’s apparent lack of interest in dealing with this issue.

“The recruitment of more judicial persons… must be a continuous exercise if we are to seriously address delay and backlog in the system,” he said, while adding to recent statements made by the PPP/C about Granger’s failure to appoint the judges that the JSC, a constitutional commission, had recommended.

He said that while in government the PPP/C administration had recognized that the increased number of judges was one of the mechanisms by which delays in the system can be effectively addressed and had instituted a number of measures, including increasing the then complement of judges from 12 to 20 and increasing budgetary allocations to the judiciary.

“The recruitment of more judicial persons therefore must be a continuous exercise if we are to seriously address delay and backlog in the system. It is clear that this is not a priority for this administration,” he said while accusing the government of playing politics with the appointment of judges.

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