FRANCIS JOSEPH Sunday, October 1 2006
AFTER Chief Justice Clinton Bernard retired in 1995, Appeal Court Justice Sat Sharma was next in line for the coveted post of head of TT's judiciary. But he did not get the job. The position went instead to an eminent attorney, Michael de la Bastide SC. So Sharma waited. His turn eventually came in July 2002 and he was appointed Chief Justice by then President Arthur NR Robinson.
All seemed to be going well for Sharma until early 2005. Then rumours of some odd conduct in office surfaced. Reports were that Sharma had tried to influence Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Geoffrey Henderson to drop a murder charge against his friend and prominent vascular surgeon Dr Vijay Naraynsingh who was charged (but eventually discharged) in December 2004 with the murder of his second wife Chandra, shot outside the Langmore Health Foundation at Palmyra, San Fernando, on June 29, 1994. The DPP complained to Attorney General John Jeremie about Sharma's conduct and the AG in turn made a report to Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
Manning immediately asked President George Maxwell Richards to appoint a tribunal to investigate Sharma's conduct.
But Sharma filed for judicial review of the PM's actions and he got an order blocking the appointment of the tribunal. Based on the court order, President Richards decided not to appoint the tribunal at the time. The hearing of that judicial review is fixed for trial tomorrow before Justice Carlton Best in the Port-of-Spain High Court. It's expected that some of those who have sworn affidavits may be cross-examined in court.
Sharma's worries were not at an end, however. A little over one year later, in May 2006, this time Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls would complain to the AG that Sharma had sought to influence him in reaching a certain decision in the integrity trial of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday who would eventually be found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Mc Nicolls claimed that Sharma wanted to see his judgment before it was delivered.
The AG sent Mc Nicolls' complaint to the DPP for investigations. The DPP in turn handed the matter over to Commissioner of Police Trevor Paul, who appointed Assistant Commis-sioner Wellington Virgil lead investigator. Virgil and his team collected 21 statements including one from the Chief Justice himself. At the end of the investigations, a warrant was obtained from a magistrate for the arrest of the Chief Justice on the charge of attempting to pervert the course of public justice.
But again Sharma filed for judicial review, this time of the decision of Deputy DPP Carla Brown-Antoine to advise the police to charge him, even though Brown-Antoine denied that she advised the police on this matter and Virgil said he personally took the decision to charge Sharma for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Nevertheless, Madame Justice Judith Jones granted an injunction restraining Brown-Antoine. She would eventually have to extend the order to the Commissioner of Police, Virgil and all 7,000-plus members of the police service, all of whom would be prevented from arresting Sharma pending the hearing and determination of his case.
Her order was extended for the fifth time on July 14 when the police went to Sharma's home at Fairways, Maraval, and attempted in vain to serve the warrant on the Chief Justice.
The State appealed Jones' judgment and on July 28, the Court of Appeal comprising Justices Margot Warner, Ivor Archie and Paula Mae Weekes, reversed Jones' decision and ordered Sharma to pay costs. But before the Appeal Court could rule against Sharma, attorneys representing Sharma approached the Privy Council in London to ask the Law Lords to have the State give an undertaking that it would not attempt to arrest Sharma until his Privy Council appeal.
The State attorneys also present before the Privy Council gave this undertaking and the Law Lords deemed the appeal urgent enough to be heard during the court's vacation — August and September.
But the record of the proceedings was not sent to London until earlier this month and the Privy Council fixed the case for the first Tuesday and Wednesday of October. It is this appeal that will be heard this week by Lords Bingham, Walker, Manse, Carswell, and Lady Hale. It is this appeal that will determine Sharma's fate.
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