It goes a bit further as the Supreme Court will advertise the matter in a daily newspaper for the next two weeks alerting the public. The advertisement invites interested persons to come forward and contribute to the debate.
The public-interest advertisement will be similar to what is produced in accordance with the Judicial Review Act 2000.
The matter which has been before Madame Justice Joan Charles, came up for hearing in the Port- of-Spain High Court yesterday. Submissions were received from Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson, Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, representing the Attorney General, and Ravi Rajcoomar on behalf of the Law Association, among others.
In the end, Charles ordered that the matter be advertised for two weeks. She then adjourned the matter to February, by which time the public’s contribution should be known.
The issue arose when a Muslim woman was called as a potential juror before Charles in December.
The woman said she was a Muslim and she dresses in full garb because she is a Muslim scholar. She graduated from the Dar Ul Uloom in Cunupia. She said she is affiliated to the Masjid-ul- Muttageen at Munroe Road, Cunupia.
She told the court, “I have to dress like this. It is not that I have to, it is a choice, either you dress like this or you can dress with the normal hijab.
Judge: “Oh, so you chose it, you have the option under the tenets of your faith to either use the normal hijab, which is the veil around here (the face)?
“Charles asked whether the potential juror was going to deal with this matter legally. “Do you think that you would want to have your interest represented? Would you, either the particular Masjid to which you belong, or you or your husband wish to have legal representation to argue your point of view?”
Juror: “Argue on what grounds? In that I would have to raise my veil or something? To raising the veil for the accused alone?”
Judge: “The real issue really is whether in the Hall of Justice, in the court, you be permitted to attend like that, as a juror, and the issue is of course that the accused must see your face and throughout the trial, not just once you show him and then you put it back on. The jurors will need to know that persons who are sitting amongst them is the same person and the jurors, as you would know would be made up of both men and women, the lawyers, everybody here.”
Juror: “I cannot raise my veil, this is my religion. I cannot here.”
The Muslim juror felt that the matter should be sorted out because it could come up again, and that other Muslim women would be called.