“You don’t burn down an house because you want to kill rats”
After the invasion of the residences of some judges, I have been following the discourse that has come with it. Opinions are diverse.
One thing that I have observed from the discourse so far, is the fact those on the side of government have misconstrued the stance of those of us on the other side; that is, those of us who question the procedure or method adopted by the DSS.
For starters, I don’t think there is anybody who would support corruption or argue that corrupt judges should be shielded from prosecution. No. What I have read and what I subscribe to, is a mature approach, considering the role of the judiciary as the third arm of government.
We have heard and read about massive corruption by politicians and and people in various arms of government, I have not seen where their houses were invaded and bungled in the dead of the night. Even where a particular Honourable was caught on camera stashing some dollars into his cap, he was not arrested, nor was his residence invaded and bungled in a gestapo stlye.
If we say the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, we should not make that common man lose faith in the judiciary because we want to get rid of some bad eggs. Just as there are bad judges, there are also good ones. This is why we must protect the judiciary as an institution.
There is a body statutorily saddled with the responsibility of disciplining erring judges and justices. That body is the National Judicial Council (NJC). It investigates, and disciplines judges who have soiled their hands with corruption. In fairness to the NJC, it has been doing its best. Although people often argue that merely recommending the suspension or dismissal or erring judges is not enough, is there anything that stops those judges from being prosecuted?
Once the NJC has done its constitutional duty in recommending the suspension or dismissal of erring judges and the appropriate authority has acted on such recommendation, the relevant security agency can step in and carry out its responsibility of prosecuting and ensuring that the maximum punishment as prescribed by law is awarded. But a situation where judges remain a part of the bench, any act done would be seen as an afront on the judiciary. To say the NJC would want to shield a corrupt judge once it is presented with convincing facts strong enough to show the guilt of the judges involved is most unfair.
The NJC has come out to state very clearly that it did not receive, refuse or shield any judge from investigation. For those that it received petitions against, it has acted on some, while others are still under investigation. Those who say the Council is overly protective are being unnecessarily harsh. As a body that interpretes and gives life to the letters of the law, it should not be seen contravening it; due process must be followed in investigating petitions and arriving at a decision.
The easiest way to ensure that a man loses his respect in the eyes of the public is to attack his integrity. The manner the DSS adopted in arresting the judges can be construed, and rightly so, as an attack on the integrity of the judiciary, to make it lose respect in the eye of the public.
The approach of the DSS will if not completely, reduce the confidence of the people in the judiciary to a very large extent.
Is there a law shielding judges from arrest and prosecution? No, there is none. But there is a law that prescribes how judges should be punished for acts or omissions committed in the course of their duty. Yes, it is there constitution and it should be obeyed by the DSS or whoever wants to rid the judiciary of corruption!
As investigations go on, these judges may be charged to court soon. What courts, if I may ask? Is it not the same court that they passed through in the course of the careers? Some courts have refused to sit as a sign of solidarity with their colleagues, and we want to arraign their colleagues before them? We want to arraign a serving Supreme Court Justice before a Magistrate and we think there is nothing wrong with that? Again, what happens when these judges are charged to court and they are not found guilty? Will they go back to the bench and continue with the cases pending before them, as if nothing happened?
I think the DSS was too excited about arresting judges that is forgot to follow the proper procedure required to do so. It didn’t, and surprisingly so, think about the after effect of its adopted gestapo style. Today, judges are an endangered species; anybody can bundle into a house of a judge and flash the badge of the DSS to perpetrate any heinous crime or carry out a revenge.
What the DSS ought to have done is to take the pill of patience, present the evidence at its disposal before the NJC, wait for the Commission to act, then swoop in on the judges once the Commission has acted in either recommending the dismissal or suspension of the judges fingered to the appropriate authority and that authority has acted as required. Where the NJC fails to act, the DSS would be justified in presenting these facts before the appropriate authority and the necessary steps would be taken considering the peculiar circumstances of each case. Self help must be discouraged by all means.
Again, it is high time we amended our laws to create a special tribunal that will try corruption individuals and people who have unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of others. The courts are over burdened which underscores why cases drag for too long. We will also be able to comfortable try judicial officers before a tribunal that is not made up of only their colleague.
Network for Democracy and Human Rights