In a 58-page report, the three-member tribunal concluded: “In light of the matters set out in our report, the tribunal humbly recommends to your Excellency that the question of removal of the Honourable Satnarine Sharma from the office of Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago should not be referred to the Judicial Committee (of the Privy Council).”
The report, dated December 14, was handed over to the President at 10 am yesterday by Ida Eversley, secretary of the tribunal which was appointed on May 16, to determine whether Sharma should be removed from office.
After perusing the report, President Richards dispatched a one-page letter to Sharma, pointing out that in accordance with Section 137 (4) (a) of the constitution, the suspension which he (Richards) imposed on Sharma on June 13, was revoked. A letter was also sent to acting Chief Justice Roger Hamel-Smith informing him that his appointment was revoked, with immediate effect.
Sharma has wasted no time as he will return to the Hall of Justice this morning to take up his duties. But he was not invited to last night’s Christmas dinner at the Queen’s Park Oval for judges, which was attended by President Richards. Contacted last night, Sharma was happy at being cleared by the tribunal comprising retired Privy Council Judge Lord Michael Mustill, Sir Vincent Floissac QC and Dennis Morrison QC.
Sharma told Newsday: “I want to thank God for giving me the strength and courage to be able to face what I have been through. I also want to thank all the people who prayed for me, sent me cards and letters. I am happy at the decision of the tribunal.”
The Chief Justice added: “I am anxious to get back to work, there are a few things which I started and which I want to complete. Based on the report, I think there is still some investigation to be carried out in this matter.”
According to the tribunal, the picture presented to them ‘almost defies belief.’ The report stated, “we find contradictory accounts given by the Chief Justice and the Chief Magistrate (Sherman Mc Nicolls) on oath, of meetings between them where the discrepancies cannot be explained away by misunderstandings or poor recollection.”
The report continued, “we see the Chief Justice publicly arrested, and later ushered three times into the dock in a criminal court to undergo a summary trial on charges based on allegations by the Chief Magistrate, and then on the last occasion, ushered out again in consequence of the refusal by the Chief Magistrate to give evidence against him.”
The tribunal heard during the oral evidence where counsel for the Chief Justice publicly accused Mc Nicolls of having been bribed to mis-try criminal proceedings against the Leader of the Opposition, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.
The tribunal said they heard allegations against the former Attorney General John Jeremie, who could have given oral evidence to rebut them, but he did not. “The air was full of rumour, innuendo and gossip, around and across deep political divides. We need not go on. The picture is ‘troubling’ indeed, both for the tribunal and for the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago.”
The tribunal members asked one question - has it been proved that the allegations against the Chief Justice are true, that he attempted to influence the Chief Magistrate to reach a verdict favourable to Panday in his integrity trial?
“We start with the evidence of the Chief Justice. His conduct during the time under review was not in our judgment, without blemish. The jovial chat with Sir Timothy Cassel (on a BWIA plane) about a pending case, his raising of the Hindu wives topic on more than one occasion, his intemperate press release, the overheated terms of his complaint to the (Judicial and Legal Services) Commission.
“All these combined with the impression gained during the oral evidence to suggest a propensity to speak and write more freely than was wise, without the balanced sensitivity and distance which should be the hallmarks of a senior judge.”
The report continued, “in contrast, when we come to the Chief Magistrate the picture is quite different.”
The tribunal wondered what could have been the motive of the Chief Magistrate in filing his complaint when both he and Sharma had been on good terms for years.
The tribunal found it strange that the Chief Magistrate took so long to file his complaint to the Attorney General. They also found that Mc Nicolls’ conduct was shrouded in mystery which they have not been able to dispel. They also touched on the land transaction which Mc Nicolls was involved in, in the middle of the Panday trial. They could not figure out why Mc Nicolls took so long to report the allegation.
“The Chief Magistrate had ample time to put together the document destined for two high officers of State, yet his effort of May 5, 2006, was so thin that it had to be reinforced less than a week later by a second statement, and the various later versions were not wholly consistent with those which launched the present proceedings.” The tribunal found that Mc Nicolls had no explanation for his last minute change of heart by not testifying against Sharma on March 5 causing the criminal trial to collapse.
“Either he was in the grip of conspirators who for some reason wanted to have the behaviour of the Chief Justice examined by an inquiry rather than in a criminal court, or at least wanted him to be removed from office without being in peril of prison.”