Crown wants soldier’s case speedily dealt with

Crown wants soldier’s case speedily dealt with

MASERU-THE crown has asked the High Court to speedily hear its application to appeal in a case in which Major Pitso Ramoepane and others want three foreign judges removed.
Crown counsel Advocate Chris Lephuthing wrote the defence team on Monday saying the case has serious legal implications and must be dealt with urgently.

Advocate Lephuthing is appealing a December 11 ruling that said the High Court registrar should give the defence team documents showing how the three foreign judges were hired.
The judges are Justices Charles Hungwe from Zimbabwe, Onkemetse Tshosa and Kabelo Lebotse from Botswana.

The crown argues the order directing the registrar to avail the agreement between the executive arm of the government, the Judicial Service Commission, the Director of Public Prosecutions, SADC and European Union “clearly illustrates the point that the real intention is to declare it unconstitutional”.

The defence argues that the appointment of the judges was influenced by the executive, which they said was in control of the JSC.
The Court of Appeal found that when the government approached its development partners and SADC regarding funding for the prosecution of cases it was acting constitutionally.

The court said it is a matter of common knowledge that judges in this jurisdiction are wallowing under a heavy load of cases due to understaffing.
“When government sourced financial and human resources to deal with the cases which are potentially complex and time-consuming, potentially presenting as they do, a real possibility of disrupting the normal schedules of the judges in this jurisdiction it was acting in terms of the Constitution,” the court said.

Advocate Lephuthing also said Major Ramoepane and others in this case were abusing the court process.
He said there is potential prejudice to the judges before whom the trials are pending if efforts to hoodwink the Judicial Service Commission into contemplated impeachment of judges are left unchecked.

This is disturbingly inappropriate because judges are expected to continue varying out their statutory functions of hearing cases as planned, he said.
He said the prepositions aimed at statutory disqualification of judges and or their contemplated impeachment “are devised means and methods of illegally covering up the real intentions of applying for permanent stay of prosecution through forum shopping before unsuited court”.

The defence team also obtained an order instructing the registrar to dispatch a complete transcribed electronic record of proceedings in which Justice Hungwe spoke ill of their clients.
This, the defence argued, showed that he was already biased against them.
Advocate Lephuthing said the registrar fell “prey under pressure of the coercive order to dispatch a complete transcribed electronic record”.

The idea is to have those records reviewed, he said.
“This argument simply cannot stand,” he said.
He said it is only logical that any inference to be drawn from those records is a matter of legal reasoning to determine whether such facts constitute an offence that warrants a finding for impeachment.

He said it is “probably appreciable why we require the hearing of the application for leave to appeal to be expedited”.
He said it is the duty of the crown to make sure that discretion of the High Court to grant postponements of criminal cases is not stretched beyond the acceptable limits intended for free access to courts of justice and the constitutional rights of Major Ramoepane and company.
“The state has rights too,” he said.

Staff Reporter

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