[Paul Lismore] An open letter to her Ladyship, Chief Justice Rehana Mungly-Gulbul

Your Ladyship,

Please forgive me for writing directly to you in this manner, but I hope you will understand that there is simply no other way to bring to your attention all the issues that follow, and which affect the lives of every citizen on this island.

What follows is a rough copy, with some adjustments, of most of the points that I raised in a previous letter (and a reminder…) to your predecessor, Asraf Caunhye, who unfortunately did absolutely nothing to improve our lamentable justice system. Perhaps he was too busy admiring the new Rs 1 billion Supreme Court with all its fancy facilities for judges in particular…

I hope you won’t mind me putting the points that I raise in bullet form format, as otherwise this is going to be a rather lengthy letter. and therefore a drain on your valuable time.

1/  The Privy Council has often ‘admonished’ Mauritian judges for the inordinate length of time it takes to deliver judgements. Not much has changed unfortunately, and some judges are known to still take 3-4 years to decide on the outcome of a case.

You should lead by example, Your Ladyship. You are known to deliver judgements within a reasonable time, i.e. a maximum of 3 months. Why should your subordinates take years? It is grossly unfair on all parties concerned: the victim, the accused, the defence, the prosecution, the police who inquired into the matter, and worst of all, the reputation of our whole justice system.

I would respectfully submit that the time has now come to introduce a time frame for judgments. If the law lords of the Privy Council can take two or three months at most, it beggars belief that our judiciary still takes ages to deliver judgments. Especially as now, judges have all the facilities, digital records, legal assistants, etc,…  and they request for written submissions from counsel, which in itself is a good thing .  
2/ Your Ladyship, you have the reputation of being courteous and flexible, and even though you might not agree with the legal reasoning, you often allow Counsel to offer submissions. Many of your subordinate judges believe they are running the Maiden Cup at the Champs de Mars as they always adopt an attitude of being stuck on their high horses…

3/ Recently, the DPP had the merit of questioning the cruel length of time it takes for victims of road accidents to be indemnified. Shouldn’t you now take the lead and insist that a Special Court ought to be set up in order to deal with these cases? It simply cannot be right that people disabled for life because of a road accident have sometimes to wait for anything up to 10 years before the court recognises the terrible hardship they are condemned to live with until they die…usually, through no fault of their own.

4/ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if judges could give a lesson or two in transparency to the politicians and make full disclosures about their wealth? And about membership of organisations that on paper are « charitable » but which unfortunately exist purely to defend the interests of the members, come what may? Like the Freemasons? How many of us would believe that justice would be dispensed when a freemason ‘brother’ faces a freemason Judge in court? Esp if a freemason zavoka is representing him….
The Judiciary must be seen to be a fiercely independent body that people can automatically trust, and members of the judiciary should therefore disclose their memberships in clubs, lodges etc. The UK did it many years ago, as far as I am aware, the Heavens did not fall on the UK as a consequence of that liberal action…

5/  The primary role of the Chief Judge, the judges, the magistrates, and the courts is to deliver justice as soon as practically possible. Consequently, I hope you will agree with me that there is now an extreme urgency for  a Chief Executive/ General Manager for the administration of the courts to be appointed.

We cannot really expect our judges to waste their precious time on mundane matters like administration, and how many paper clips should be ordered, etc.

6/ Judges and magistrates should lead by example. Why ask all those concerned to come to the District/Intermediate Courts at 9.30 a.m. and at 10.30 to the Supreme Court when very often, the magistrates and judges are themselves late, sometimes very late? Justice cannot be delivered if it is subject to the whims and caprices of those charged with the principles of equity and fairness….

7/ Do you think it is right that Supreme Court judges should be allowed to continue to act as arbitrators in private arbitration? It is an open secret that Arbitration has been used and is being used by some counsel, specially the senior ones , as a leverage on the judges, based on the principle of  » Scratch my back and I will scratch yours. »

8/ It is always desirable to replace old blood with new one, but the way some judges have been appointed despite them having never written a judgement prior to their promotion does not augur well for the quality of future judgements… 

9/ The days of selecting magistrates and letting them loose on the public without any training are an obvious anachronism that really needs to be abandoned. The urgency and importance of opening an Ecole de Magistrature cannot be overstated.

10/ Finally,  the selection and appointment of Senior Counsels and Attorneys should be based on merit and not on obscure considerations, like religion, caste, level of sycophancy, the right Freemason Lodge, etc. It is high time to end the incestuous relationship between the bench, the DPP’s office, and AG’s office. This is nothing new as it had been recommended in the Mackay report, many years ago…
I am sorry if this sounds personal, but if your husband is appointed as Senior Counsel, despite the many, many skeletons that he carries, the judiciary will suffer yet another blow to its already tarnished reputation.

I am afraid the judiciary has lost a lot of credibility, and the unsavoury manner the electoral petitions have been delayed for over 2 years makes us look like ridiculous amateurs to our African counterparts in their judiciary. 

It would be wonderful if you, as our first female Chief Judge, could bring about all the changes that the judiciary absolutely needs, and which previous male Chief Judges have all ignored.. If nothing else, it will show the arrogant males that women often are better at managing and heading big administrations than men who are perhaps too keen to show how well they look in their savate Dodo…

If only the men would grow up, instead of hiding in their little boy’s clubs and scratching each other’s backs.

Your Ladyship, I hope you will consider this letter in the vein it was sent to you: an honest desire to at least make people discuss the very many reforms that our justice system is crying for. If you think, like some disreputable zourlanus often accuse me of, that I am being a ‘donneur de lessons », then that indeed would be sad.

And we can then continue to drift along the sea of mediocrity that is in danger of engulfing our whole justice system…and that  would be a real pity.

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