15 Feb 2007

Fiji High Court judge warns military not to interfere with courts

10:52 am on 15 February 2007

A Fiji High Court judge has told the military that it must not interfere with the courts.

The Fiji Times reports that Justice Filimoni Jitoko issued the warning after a defendant in a partly heard case before him referred the matter to the military.

Justice Jitoko said in his judgment that early this year the defendant, Mohammed Shamshood, decided to seek the military's assistance purportedly to influence the outcome of the proceedings in his favour.

Justice Jitoko said it was his understanding from counsel for the plaintiff that both parties and their lawyers were summoned to the military camp where discussions took place on the case.

He said a letter from the military to the court had tried to explain its efforts in this regard.

Justice Jitoko said he wanted to make it clear that it was not for the military or any agency other than the court to make the final decision in the case and this must hold true in all other civil matters.

Justice Jitoko said the independence of the judiciary is premised on a clear understanding that matters must be determined impartially in accordance with the law.

He said "the independence of the judiciary means that the courts will no be threatened, pressured, induced or interfered with from anyone in carrying out its functions."

Justice Jitoko said he viewed the intrusion of the military on behalf of the defendant in this case with grave concern, no matter how well intentioned the act may have been.