Seychelles’ Supreme Court reopens under the theme “Without Fear or Favour”
‘Without Fear or Favor’ is the theme that the Seychelles’ Supreme Court re-opened under for 2019 on Thursday, a theme that will focus on decisions made by the constitution.
“For 2019 we are shifting our focus from the institutional and physical into how we make decisions. We are focusing this year on the fundamental tenet of constitutionalism – the requirement of a functioning democracy that Judges and Magistrates make decisions ‘Without Fear or Favor,” said the chief justice Mathilda Twomey.
Twomey added that the theme applies not only to the judges and lawyers, but also to other judiciary staff. The chief justice asked all staff “to challenge themselves, ensuring that all litigants and lawyers get the same level treatment and job is done with all diligence and to the best of abilities.”
As it is customary, the re-opening of the court started with the traditional religious service which was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. It was Bishop Denis Wiehe who lead the interfaith service, which was followed by a procession through the island nation’s capital led by the chief justice.
As it is customary, the re-opening of the court started with the traditional religious service which was held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception followed by a procession through the island nation’s capital led by the chief justice. (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY
The procession ended with a motorcade to the Palais de Justice at Ile du Port, a man-made island on the outskirts of Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
Reflecting on the past year, Twomey said that in the courtroom, there has been a reduction in the number of filed cases which allowed her and her team to further reduce the backlogged cases, in line with their strategic plan.
“Of the 3,705 cases which were completed across our courts in 2018, an amount that does not include the Family and Employment Tribunals, 258 were backlogged cases,” said Twomey.
A case is considered backlogged if it “was filed during a year three or more years prior to the current year.” In other words, cases filed in 2016 or earlier constitute our ‘backlog’ in 2019.
“As of January 2019, we only have 282 backlogged cases on the cause list, which is significantly down from 409 backlogged cases pending in January 2018,” added Twomey.
The Chief Justice added that “for a court to be deemed “healthy”, the goal is to reach a plateau where our backlog is a nominal percentage of the total cases, and our number of completed cases is largely on par with the number of cases filed.”
“We are excelling in both of the fields, performing better with each year. This is largely due to the hard work being put in by each of our judges and magistrates,” said Twomey.
For 2019 the Seychelles’ Supreme Court will be shifting their focus from the institutional and physical into how they make decisions (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY
It was outlined that in 2018 there was significantly less movement of judges and magistrates than in the previous years. During the same year, the first stone for the new magistrates’ court was laid, the construction of which is expected to be completed by next year. Staff have also benefitted with numerous trainings, both locally and internationally.
The new year gives the high court a new start after controversies seen in 2018. In October last year a tribunal set up to investigate complaints of misbehaviour by the Chief Justice concluded that the evidence does not support the allegations.
The Tribunal had four charges to look in to, including that the Chief Justice abused the authority of her office, destruction of evidence in a case heard by Justice Durai Karunakaran, publication of a report recommending the removal of the Supreme Court judge to the President, and the Chief Justice communications with the Constitutional Appointments Authority, (CAA) in connection with Karunakaran’s fitness for office.
Justice Karunakaran had also filed a case against the former CAA, saying that he did not get a chance to be heard after he was suspended on October 10, 2016. The case was dismissed in June by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the CAA had no legal obligations to allow Karunakaran to be heard.