PMB magistrate loses case

2009-07-21 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL High Court Judge Chris Nicholson has ruled that a bid by Pietermaritzburg magistrate Ashin Singh to intervene as an amicus curiae in the recent corruption trial of President Jacob Zuma, was done for “ulterior purposes” to pursue a long-standing feud between him and State advocate Billy Downer SC, and granted a punitive cost order against Singh.

In a reserved judgment handed down in the Pietermaritzburg high court, Nicholson also cleared Downer and former KZN head of the Investigative Directorate, Organised Crime, Chris MacAdam, of allegations of dishonesty imputed by Singh, saying the accounts given on their behalf “reveal no blame-worthiness at all”.

He said the affidavits filed on the State’s behalf denying the allegations, had provided answers to all the facts and allegations concerned and “effectively refuted” the allegations.

Singh had tried to withdraw his application after filing it, but the State maintained that it was entitled to respond having regard to the serious nature of the allegations against an officer of the Court, and also took the unusual step of asking the court for a punitive cost order against Singh.

Nicholson found that Singh had allowed the press access to the papers before he served them last year, and that the application had been calculated to obtain “maximum publicity” given the national interest in the Zuma matter.

Nicholson said it remains a “privilege” to be joined as an amicus (or friend of the court) in a hearing.

“Such amicus has a duty to the Court to draw its attention to relevant matters of law and facts to which its attention would not otherwise be drawn. It should not be used as a vehicle to continue a long-standing vendetta against a legal practitioner,” he said.

“I accept that the State has a right and obligation to protect the integrity of the legal process and its officers. The applicant’s [Singh’s] allegations had to be answered given the seriousness of the imputations of dishonesty and impropriety.

“ I accept that the Zuma case had national and international interest and that the applicant’s plan was to obtain the maximum publicity adverse to Downer.

“These allegations were far-reaching and amounted to an accusation that Zuma will not be afforded a fair trial if Downer were to be allowed to be part of the prosecuting team.”

Nicholson said he was of the belief that Singh’s application was “vexatious and an abuse of the process of the Court and of the amicus procedure”.

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