FORMER chief justice Satnarine Sharma says no head of the Judiciary “to the best of my knowledge” has ever taken a sabbatical while in office.
“As far as I am aware, it has never happened. I am not aware of any provisions during my time. No chief justice has ever taken a sabbatical,” he told Newsday, yesterday, in response to the decision by Chief Justice Ivor Archie to embark on a six-month sabbatical. The embattled CJ claimed victory in the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday when Justice Nadia Kangaloo ruled that the Law Association had no grounds to continue investigating allegations of misconduct against him. Kangaloo’s judgement, though, did not prevent Archie from deciding to embark on a six-month sabbatical to “rest, reflect and study,”
This means that Archie will not be present for the swearing-in ceremony for retired Appeal Court judge Paula-Mae Weekes as this country’s first woman President on March 19. She succeeds outgoing Head of State Anthony Carmona.
Sharma, who served as CJ from 2002 to 2008, said details of the move, which he regarded as unprecedented, must be made clear.
“I really don’t know whether these are terms and conditions of your employment as a judge or your tenure as a judge. I was never aware of that. And on whose authority has he been given permission to do this?”
Sharma also expressed serious concerns about outstanding judgements. “What about the judgements outstanding when you take sabbatical? I don’t know. It raises all sorts of questions. Theoretically, if you had one year sabbatical, people, then, must wait for your judgement until you come back.”
Sharma also sought answers about pay during Archie’s absence
“Does the taxpayer have to fork out money to pay for all that? And what about the person who is acting in his position?
“If it is the acting chief justice, you have to pay them. He or she has to get everything the chief justice was getting. There are all sorts of unforeseen consequences that will arise.”
Sharma also wondered whether or not the sabbatical was gazetted.
“These are all questions that are up in the air.”
Sharma said all of the ex-CJs he has known, dating back to Sir Hugh Wooding, had served for their entire term “and when we were due for annual vacation we took it.”
He said the CJ’s latest decision must be “properly scrutinised.”
“I don’t know who is giving permission for that, who has the authority to do it.”