Durban – If arguments in court are unsuccessful or evidence is found to be unconvincing, and a judge makes an adverse finding against a party, it cannot be seen as hostility or bias, the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court said on Saturday.
The Bench in the province had noted with concern various statements made in public and in the media by individuals and interest groups against High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay which, in its view, sought to intimidate judicial officers and interfere with the administration of justice in the division, KwaZulu-Natal acting Judge President Isaac Madondo said in a statement.
This is with reference to former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial, presided over by Judge Pillay on February 4.
"Those who oppose the outcome of these proceedings have sought to challenge the court order using avenues other than those provided for in law. They have attacked Judge Pillay by making baseless allegations of corruption and working in cohorts with certain influential individuals to pursue political agendas against the former president Mr Zuma," he said.
Madondo had been assured by Pillay that these allegations were baseless and devoid of truth. It fell entirely within the discretion of a judge in a particular matter, depending on the circumstances and facts of such a matter, to issue the warrant of arrest outrightly or to stay it for a certain period.
If the judge had not exercised his/her discretion judiciously, there were legal processes or procedures available to the aggrieved person rather than vicious public attacks on the judiciary which had an effect on eroding public confidence in the judiciary.
"Where arguments are unsuccessful or evidence is found unconvincing, and a judge makes an adverse finding against a party, this cannot be seen as hostility or bias; it is the legal process taking its course," Madondo said.
"It must also be noted that any party to a court matter has the right, through a proper court process, to request a judge to recuse herself/himself from a matter if they feel they have sufficient grounds to make such a request. Judges may not be removed from matters on the basis of unfounded allegations and innuendo. The reasons or arguments put forward for a judge to recuse herself/himself from any matter must be tested in open court," he said.
The Constitution asserted that South Africa is a democratic state founded on the values of human rights, the supremacy of the Constitution, and the rule of law; that the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour, or prejudice. Furthermore, the Constitution is clear that an order or decision issued by a court binds all persons to whom it applies.
"As such, the KwaZulu Natal Division of the High Court reaffirms its commitment to the principles of independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility, and the effectiveness of the courts.
"The courts, as provided for in our Constitution, exist to promote the rule of law and to uphold the supreme law of the country, the Constitution. The judiciary has been, and will continue to be fearless in its approach to promote the rule of law and safeguard its independence.
"The judiciary further reaffirms its commitment to the doctrine of separation of powers – provided for in the Constitution – which vests the legislative autonomy in the legislature, the executive autonomy in the executive, and the judicial authority in the courts," Madondo said.
African News Agency (ANA)