Clerk and presiding officer clash

2010-03-17 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG Magistrate’s Court clerk has filed a complaint with the chief magistrate and her union against magistrate Ashin Singh, before whom she will appear today on a charge of contempt of court.

Singh gave instructions to a court orderly yesterday to place Wendy George under arrest when she flouted his instruction to remain in court in the wake of an altercation between them.

George subsequently appeared in the accused’s dock facing an allegation of contempt of court and was warned by Singh that he could keep her in custody or fix bail for her, but in the end decided to release her on a warning pending her appearance today.

George said yesterday she believed it was “unfair” that the same magistrate who charged her should preside over her hearing as he was clearly not impartial.

She confirmed yesterday that she was filing a grievance against Singh for being disrespectful towards her.

She said the derogatory manner he spoke to her was humiliating and uncalled for. “He told me to shut up and sit down,” she said.

Upset and not wanting to utter a retort, she asked if she could be excused, but he refused. When she walked out of the room Singh gave instructions that she be arrested.

“I don’t mind being called aside or even called up to the bench and spoken to quietly if there is a problem, but to be treated in this way in front of the public and the other staff members is humiliating,” said George.

The Witness was told that the dispute started when Singh — who is relieving in A-court for the usual magistrate, Divesh Mootheram — demanded to know where the court diary was. He was upset because the two clerks assigned to that court were not present when he entered the court, but according to George both had been there earlier and had to go out to attend to various tasks which form part of their duties.

Singh did not want to comment, but repeated his comments made in court that the court was chaotic and that “nothing works — just like the Pietermaritzburg muncipality. I can’t tolerate it,” he said.

 

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