Judicial discipline: A2J faults NJC’s revised regulations

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Access to Justice (A2J), a non-governmental organization, has said that the recently published revised Judicial Discipline Regulations will weaken independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Joseph Otteh, Director, Access to Justice, said, weekend, that the new rules will negate the fight against corruption and other forms of misconduct in the administration of justice, adding: “We urge the NJC to revisit the new rules again and remove provisions which fetter the right and ability of citizens to make bona fide representations to the council which the council will act on, and provisions which limit the council’s own power to tackle misconduct and corruption and those who engage in or profit from it.”

The NJC revised judicial discipline regulations instated new rules governing the reception and consideration of complaints against judges.

The revised rules were aimed at curtailing frivolous petitions against judges and prevent judges from being distracted by vexatious and baseless allegations against them.
According to A2J, the regulation on time limits was overly intrusive.

Rule 1(1) of the revised regulations states: “A complaint must be made within six months of the event or matter complained of, provided a complaint relating to a continuing state of affairs may be made at any time while the state of affairs continues or within six months from when it ends.”

But A2J mentioned that in many instances, cases of misconduct, particularly those concerning corruption occurring in the course of a judicial adjudication, are only known after the fact, and there is usually no timeline for coming to this knowledge.

“In most cases, the corrupt conduct of a judicial officer may only become public knowledge following a careless slip or from the irrepressible work of investigative reporters. Whenever the facts become known, let due process follow! There should be no statute of limitations applicable to judicial corruption or misconduct. Our fight against corruption in the administration of justice ought to run a free course.”

On the requirement of a verifying affidavit, A2J said that Rule 4(5) of the regulation required that the complaint be “accompanied by a verifying affidavit deposed before a court of record.”

“A verifying affidavit, in our opinion, stretches the responsibility for credibility a little too far and technicalises what ought to be simple, accessible and straightforward procedure or action,” it said.

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