Conflict erupts over judges’ appointments

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has been accused of selecting new judges without the involvement of government. Law, justice, human rights and constitutional affairs minister, Professor Nqosa Mahao, says his ministry and government has learned about the JSC’s recommendation of names for consideration for the bench that was made last Thursday but that government was never made aware of the process.

Mahao made the announcement at a media briefing today and said while he is uncertain about the names, it is understood that the King, is soon expected to make the appointments. However, Mahao says JSC recommendations do not have “the government’s blessing” and would be undone. He said as the minister responsible, he was not made aware and so is the rest of the government.

According to Mahao “there should be an open and public announcement on the available posts so that the most qualified and skilled individuals are at liberty to apply for the positions.” Nonetheless, the current state of the law says otherwise, Section 120 (2) of the constitution states that “puisne judges shall be appointed by the King, acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.”

Mohao says there is need urgently to revise the law and involve bodies such as the law society, academics and even parliament in the appointment of the judges. The process leading to the new law should be done now (by the current government) and acting judges be appointed in the meantime. He reiterated government’s plans to reforms and the vacant posts in the High Court bench necessitate need for the Administration of the Judiciary Act.

Also, Mahao says it was not clear whether recommendations by the JSC were permanent or temporary positions but “the principle was wrong,” on top of that, he said he has established that it was only the Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo in the JSC meeting recommending judges for appointment. The chairman of the Public Service Commission and the High Court judge who is part of the JSC were not part of the meeting.

 

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