KZN chief justice Patel may face JSC

2014-10-24 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Judge President Chiman Patel — charged with crimen injuria — may face a Judicial Services Commission probe if convicted.

Patel, who occupies the highest office of the judiciary in the province, has been accused of swearing at a clerk in his chambers.

The clerk registered a case with the police and, after an investigation, the docket was sent to the National Prosecuting Authority.

Prosecutions boss Moipone Noko opted to go ahead with the prosecution, which will see Patel appearing in court next month.

Patel has gone to ground, after publicly denying the allegation.

“If this is regarding the article that appeared in the paper, I suggest you contact the chief justice. I have no comment on this matter,” he said.

NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube confirmed that Noko had taken the decision after applying her mind.

He said that the charge would have no bearing on the independence of the judiciary, reinforcing the principle of equality before the law.

“This will not impact the judiciary. It is simply a criminal charge against one individual not the entire judiciary,” he said.

Criminal law expert William Booth said that those in power were also accountable before the law.

“If there is a legitimate criminal complaint against anyone, in terms of our democracy and Constitution, they could be charged. I am not aware of all the facts in this matter, so I say that in light of the fact that our president was prosecuted and acquitted,” he said.

“Victims need to feel that any legitimate complaint will be pursued by the NPA and that is important. The NPA must decide if there is evidence which may justify a successful prosecution. If there is none then there is no case,” Booth said.

“It all depends on evidence in the docket. Patel has a right to submit representations calling on the NPA to reconsider their decision and they may decide to deal with it in another way — through mediation without a criminal charge.”

Booth said that Patel could face investigation by the Judicial Services Commission.

“It could impact on the position that he holds because a complaint might be laid with the JSC and an inquiry could follow,” he said.

JSC secretary Sello Chiloane said that no complaint had been laid.

“The JSC has not received any complaint of crimen injuria against Judge President Patel.”

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