MASERU — The Constitutional Court on Thursday reserved judgment in a case in which Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi is seeking an interim order to delay the impeachment proceedings against him.
Justice’s Ompheletse Moshidi, John Musi and Suled Potterrill did not specify when they will deliver judgment.
Justice Ramodibedi is seeking an interim interdict relief pending a review of Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s advice to the King to set up a tribunal to investigate allegations against him.
The tribunal was established under section 125 (5) of the Constitution.
The Court of Appeal president wanted the court to order Thabane not to advise the King to suspend him.
He argues that such representation to the King must be reviewed and set aside.
Ramodibedi also wants the court to order that the members of the tribunal Justice Zekeria Yacoob, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro and Justice Meyer Joffe should not sit in the tribunal.
On behalf of the applicant Advocate Sakoane Sakoane KC, who appeared together with Advocate Zwelake Mda KC, contended that the complaint of the applicant is that he had been denied the right to be heard.
The prime minister confirms that he made representations to the king for a tribunal on July 23.
On August 16, 2013, the king appointed the tribunal.
And the prime minister wrote a letter to the Justice Ramodibedi asking him to show cause why he should not be suspended.
Sakoane argued that Thabane should have informed Justice Ramodibedi before asking the King to set up the tribunal.
His client, he said, was therefore denied the right to be heard.
“The point of the applicant is that it is the duty of the prime minister to afford him a hearing not the tribunal,” Sakoane said.
This was after Justice Musi had asked whether the prime minister had not complied with the principle of the right to be heard, since he heard all allegations from answering and replying affidavits.
However, on behalf of the respondents, Advocate Siphozihle Mdhluli submitted that the application is not urgent.
Any urgency, Mdhuli said, is self-created.
“On this basis alone, the application should be dismissed with costs,” he said.
Mdhluli contended that the applicant has no right to be heard prior to the appointment of tribunal to investigate complaints against him.
“There has thus been no infringement of the applicant’s rights to procedural fairness and equality before the law in the appointment of tribunal,” he argued.
He pointed out further that the interim interdict is neither necessary nor appropriate relief for the protection of the applicant’s right and dignity.
He said the proper remedy is the expeditious conclusion of the investigation and hearing at the tribunal.
“We submit that the application ought to be dismissed on this basis alone and that there is no need for this court to engage in the merits of the matter,” he said.
He submitted that should the tribunal proceed to investigate and hear the grounds of impeachment referred to it, the applicant would be given a full opportunity to respond to the case.
“No findings have been made against the applicant at this stage, the appointment of the tribunal is simply a preliminary procedural step,” he observed.
He argued the application is an effort calculated to avoid as well as delay the full and proper investigation of the complaint against the judge in the proper forum.
“This court should not permit such an abuse of the court process,” he said.
The tribunal will investigate allegations that Justice Ramodibedi committed perjury, fraud and brought the judiciary into disrepute. If found guilty, Justice Ramodibedi will be the first judge in Lesotho to be impeached.