Members of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) are being investigated following leaks that the commission tried to sneak judicial appointments procedural reforms through the back door to give President Ian Khama the power to choose judges.
This emerged in an interview this week with JSC chairman and Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo.
The Chief Justice was responding to Sunday Standard questions that the JSC was not telling the truth in a press statement it issued this week rebutting a story carried in last week’s edition of the Sunday Standard.
Justice Maruping said he could not discuss whether the JSC was telling the truth or not in the press statement.
The press release, signed by High Court Registrar and Secretary of the JSC, Godfrey Nthomiwa, and circulated in the media, stated that “The JSC decided, at that meeting, that the procedure it has adopted with respect to making recommendations to His Excellency the President, where more names are sent to the President than the number of vacancies, will stand until varied by the Commission.
Such variation has not occurred and the claim that the JSC has ‘agreed to stay the new system until a meeting where a definite decision is to be taken’ is false and devoid of the truth as well as the statement that ‘the JSC has resolved that pending the finalization of the issue concerning the proper interpretation of Section 96 (2) the JSC will meanwhile revert to the old system of appointment”. In fact, at its meeting of the 11th May 2010, the JSC confirmed the previous decision that it has discretion to send more than the required names to the President to choose from.”
The Sunday Standard can, however, reveal that contrary to the JSC statement, during the meeting, some members proposed that the president should be given three names for the two vacancies in the bench. This was in line with the controversial new system.
Other members, however, spoke out against the new system and as a result the JSC reverted to the old system and only two names were submitted to the president, denying him an opportunity to choose.
In submitting a number of names that corresponds with the number of vacancies, the JSC was in effect suspending the new system of appointments until its next meeting, where all its members are expected to be present.
Nthomiwa would not respond to queries that the JSC was not telling the truth in the press statement. He referred all queries to Justice Dibotelo.
The Chief Justice, on the other hand, told Sunday Standard that he could “not add or subtract to the press statement” and that he was “not prepared to say whether it is true or not true”.
Justice Maruping said he was worried that JSC’s “confidential information is leaking. Someone has leaked information that was discussed at the JSC”.
He told the Sunday Standard that “we are investigating the leak”. Although he confirmed authorising the press statement, he said he could not comment on the press statement until the investigations are complete.
“I do not want to prejudice what the JSC will decide,” he said.
The JSC was responding to a story carried in the last edition of the Sunday Standard that the commission had reverted to the old system of appointing judges after the law society’s position, which was tabled by its representative, Peter Collins, received support from the President of the Court of Appeal, Patrick Tebutt.?Like the Law Society, the President of the Appeals court is reported to be of the view that the reforms are unconstitutional because Khama does not have the power to choose, at his own discretion, whom he wishes to appoint to the bench, and should be confined to appointing in line with recommendations made to him by the JSC.?
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