“[…] As any seasoned attorney would know, however, this is of the nature of errors for which provision is made in the rules for simple correction by the Registrar. This was done.
“[…] To suggest any nefarious intent or conspiracy is to seek to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the very democracy on which our nation stands.
“The Judiciary would therefore prefer to consider that the news article, especially by the newspaper that has proudly hailed itself as ‘the Guardian of Democracy’ for the many decades of its life, was merely one of misunderstanding of the court’s processes and rules…”
The following is a media statement by the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, which seeks to address claims that Justice Nadia Kangaloo had ‘amended’ her judgment in the case of Ravi Balgobin Maharaj v The Attorney General:
The Judiciary sees as most unfortunate—and hopefully not born of malicious or Machiavellian intent, but merely of a lack of understanding of the process—the suggestion in the Trinidad Guardian that The Honourable Mme Justice Kangaloo amended her order in some way after she had given her ruling in the matter of Ravi Balgobin Maharaj v The Attorney General.
In fact, at the conclusion of the hearing in which the Judge delivered her ruling, the order (which is the document which captures what the judge has ruled) was quickly drafted and sent out to the parties by CourtMail at approximately 4:30 pm. Unfortunately, it contained a clerical error of the type normally corrected by use of the ‘slip rule’.
As soon as the error was detected, the corrected order was brought in line with what the judge herself had earlier clarified in response to a question by Mr Douglas Mendes SC in the virtual MS Teams hearing in which the media were present.
At 5:39 pm, the error was pointed out to the judicial support officer who manages the Judge’s Team email address. It was pointed out by email from one of the instructing attorneys and which was quite properly copied by her to instructing attorneys for all parties. Another instructing attorney also forwarded same to the Registrar.
The judgement, recording and Case Management Information System were checked and the slip rule invoked. This rule provides for the correction of errors such as this to bring the perfected order (which is the document) in line with the actual pronouncement of the Judge.
The corrected document was issued at 7:39 pm and dispatched by CourtMail to all parties at 8:05 pm. The corrected document stated what had actually been pronounced by the Judge earlier that day.
The press release of the Office of the Attorney General was not seen by the Registrar until well after the correction had been issued—and it was of no import, consequence or moment to the Judiciary, which had done its work as it would have in the normal course of events.
Justice is not a cloistered virtue and as such the judiciary does see that in its desire to ensure immediate dispatch of time-sensitive orders in matters of public and national importance, a drafting error was made.
As any seasoned attorney would know, however, this is of the nature of errors for which provision is made in the rules for simple correction by the Registrar. This was done.
An order of the court/judge (meaning the pronouncement by the judge) and an order of the court (meaning the document issued to capture the ruling of the judge) are two completely different things. The wording of the article unfortunately juxtaposed the two and thus obfuscated the facts and baffled the reader.
To suggest any nefarious intent or conspiracy is to seek to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the very democracy on which our nation stands. The judiciary would therefore prefer to consider that the news article, especially by the newspaper that has proudly hailed itself as ‘the Guardian of Democracy’ for the many decades of its life, was merely one of misunderstanding of the court’s processes and rules.
As good journalistic practice would indicate, checking for accuracy before publishing is to the benefit of the Fourth Estate and its readers. Such casually made suggestions of intent or conspiracy are not cute or humorous attempts at market capture, but are in fact very harmful and dangerous to peace and order in our democratic society and as good citizens we should all avoid the temptation to make them.
The portion of the written judgement, the erroneous draft and the corrected draft all make clear and show the nature of the error as one of transposition.