27 Apr 2006

Fiji Supreme Court rejects application to disqualify judge from appeal hearing

3:23 pm on 27 April 2006

Fiji's Supreme Court has rejected an application from High Court judge, Justice Nazhat Shameem, to disqualify Justice Michael Scott from being part of a panel to hear an appeal by the jailed former deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure.

Justice Shameem jailed Vakalalabure for six years in August 2004 for taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence by being sworn in as a member of George Speight's failed administration during the coup.

She wanted Justice Michael Scott disqualified from hearing the appeal because she believed that Justice Scott's hostility towards her was evidence of actual bias which, she said, deprived the Supreme Court of impartiality.

The rift stems from Justice Scott's role as well as that of current chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki and former chief justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga to the drafting of decrees to abolish the 1997 constitution and giving legal advice during the coup.

Justice Shameem's lawyer, Chen Bun Young, said his client's application was based on a matter of principle, the issue being an independent and impartial tribunal, and not with the merits of Vakalabure's appeal.

But Supreme Court judges Keith Mason, John Vondussa and Mark Weinburg have rejected her application.

They will give their written reasons later.