Career cannot be destroyed over trivial matter: Singh

June 19, 2024 4:36 pm

Appeals Court Judge Alipate Qetaki’s lawyer today made submissions that his client cannot be penalized for opening up a bank account and that a judges career cannot be destroyed over a trivial matter.

Anil Singh made submission during a hearing on a matter referred to the Supreme Court by cabinet, in regards to the interpretation of section 105(2)(b) of the Constitution.

This is in particular to, whether an Independent Legal Services Commission finding in a disciplinary proceeding instituted against a legal practitioner, is consistent with the intended finding of guilt in the constitutional provisions.

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The context in which that opinion was sought relates to the appointment of John Rabuku to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution and Alipate Qetaki to the office of the Judge of Court of Appeal.

According to section 105(2)(b) of the Constitution, a person is not qualified for appointment as a Judge unless he or she has had not less than 15 years post-admission practice as a legal practitioner in Fiji or in another country prescribed by law, and has not been found guilty of any disciplinary proceeding involving legal practitioners whether in Fiji or abroad, including any proceeding by the Independent Legal Services Commission or any proceeding under the law governing legal practitioners, barristers and solicitors prior to the establishment of the Independent Legal Services Commission.

Justice Qetaki was found guilty of professional misconduct in 2017.

Qetaki had opened a trust account without obtaining written approval from the Minister of Justice.

The Independent Legal Service Commissioner had declined to impose any sanctions upon Qetaki, noting that the level of culpability was low in relation to both counts and minimum harm was caused by the actions.

His name was not entered into the Discipline Register.

The Commissioner while making the orders had also accepted that it was the conduct of the bank in this matter which was truly blameworthy, namely its failure to obtain a copy of the approval letter from Qetaki, who was a trustee.

During his submissions, Judge Qetaki’s lawyer Anil Singh said that in this matter the bank was prosecuted and ordered to pay a fine of $1,500.

He also said that that no facts have been provided by Solicitor General’s counsel or the Fiji Law Society that goes against his client.

He also said that no facts have been presented to state that his client is not qualified to hold the positions he currently holds.

He said that his client is a person of highest competency and is qualified to be the Court of Appeals judge who is capable of upholding the law.

Singh also said that the Fiji Law Society is asking Qetaki to be re-punished for the trivial offense.

In their submission Fiji Law Society senior counsel Martin Daubney had stated that the phrase found guilty ought to be interpreted as adverse findings.

Earlier today, lawyer representing Human Rights and Anti- Discrimination Commission Parvesh Sharma stated that Qetaki and Rabuku cannot be penalized by to section 105(2)(b) of the Constitution as they don’t fall in that category.

Rabuku was appointed to the position of Acting DPP in October last year while Qetaki was sworn in as Appeals Court in April last year.

Lawyer, Feizal Hannif is representing the Solicitor General’s Office, Anil Singh is representing Justice Alipate Qetaki, Parvesh Sharma is appearing for the Human Rights Commission and Richard Naidu and Martin Daubney are appearing for the Fiji Law Society and Semi Leweniqila is representing Judicial Services Commission.

The Supreme Court Judges Justice Sir Terence Arnold, Justice Brian Keith and Justice William Young will give their opinion next Friday.