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Only the PM Can Secure Removal of CJ From Office
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

Contrary to the statement made by the Prime Minister in the Senate on Tuesday 15 February to the effect "...that the Prime Minister and Government have no authority to remove a Chief Justice from office..." it must be appreciated that a Chief Justice can only and only be removed from office by the Prime Minister acting under his authority as prescribed in Section 137 (3) of the Constitution. Not even The President who appointed the Chief Justice acting in his deliberate judgement in the first place can unilaterally initiate and drive this process. Some conclude, however, that if the President appoints, he can also disappoint or revoke.

The Privy Council cannot act on its own volition. It has no exclusive authority but can act only on the recommendation for removal arrived at by the Tribunal that is selected by the Prime Minister and transmitted to The Privy Council by the President. The President merely performs a post office function in the temporary and/or permanent removal of the CJ from office. It is to be noted that the Privy Council has no authority to remove a Chief Justice contrary to the statement of the PM when he said: "...That authority resides ultimately with the Privy Council and the Privy Council only..." The Privy Council merely recommends/advises the removal of the CJ. In accordance with Section 137 (2) it is The President that actually removes or revokes the appointment of the CJ.

Accordingly the Prime Minister weighs the evidence, initiates the process for permanent removal, selects The Tribunal and advises the President to suspend the CJ pending the determination of the matter by the Privy Council. In this case the complainants are the AG and the DPP. The CJ is the defendant. All must be suspended from Office if the case is seized of a politically appointed Tribunal in accordance with Section 137 (3)(a).

Having regard to the fundamental doctrine of the separation of powers in accordance with which the President appointed the Chief Justice in the exercise of his own deliberate judgment, it would appear that the constitutionally prescribed procedures for the removal of a CJ that endow the politically appointed Prime Minister with a crucial and overriding role and authority must be flawed. That is to say it is inconsistent with the appointment process.

This would appear to be the legal grounds on which the CJ proposes to use the Court to set aside any potential intervention by The Prime Minister to remove him from office. While the Constitution is the supreme law of T&T it can and does contain mistakes and inconsistencies and sometimes may reflect the power lust/ political position ( one party chamber) of The Prime Minister under whose watch it was conceived and enacted.

But more about constitutional errors anon.

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