BREAKING NEWS: Confirmation that the outgoing President, Jioji Konrote, sacked the Solicitor General, Sharvada Sharma, on Wednesday in contravention of the 2013 Constitution stipulation that any dismissal be on the basis of a recommendation from the Judicial Services Commission after a tribunal hearing into any allegation of “misbehaviour”.
It appears that the President ignored the unambiguous Constitutional provisions (see previous posting) that apply to such dismissals on the advice of the Chief Justice, Kamal Kumar, who chairs the Judicial Services Commission. On what basis that advice was made isn’t clear. But it has stunned the legal profession and sent shock waves through the highest levels in Fiji.
Friends say a “deeply shocked” Sharvada Sharma intends to fight for his job and his constitutional right to put his case to a tribunal of three judges by seeking a judicial review of the decision in the High Court. An announcement is pending but one of the lawyers representing him is said to be Richard Naidu of Munro Leys, the well known opposition figure and prospective politician.
Sharma’s dismissal evidently came after he received a letter last Thursday with a list of 31 questions that he was required to answer by Saturday. Sharma is said to have asked for more time and didn’t receive a response until he received his termination letter. But he specifically denied the allegation of misbehaviour made against him by the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.
It is not known whether Sharma’s failure to meet the Saturday deadline led directly to his dismissal. But it does nothing to alter his undeniable right under the Constitution to have the complaint against him heard by a tribunal, for that tribunal’s findings to be sent to the President and for those findings to be made public.
An astonishing development that goes to the heart of the credibility of the rule of law in Fiji. Three months after the Chief Justice was sworn in to his permanent appointment, the country is now in the throes of a full blown constitutional crisis. If the way the termination of the SG is anything to go by, no-one in high office – including judges and magistrates – has security of tenure and can be dismissed with the barest of nods to judicial procedure.
While the CJ chairs the Judicial Services Commission, he would also normally preside over the process of any judicial review in the High Court. Legal commentators say that given the circumstances, Justice Kumar would be expected to recuse himself and for the matter to be heard by another judge. But there is no requirement for this in law.
One of the biggest stories in Fiji in recent years that has a long way to run and will have far-reaching consequences for confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law.