HAJ ABDOOLA, ANGOH
It is a privilege for me to welcome you all on behalf of Alif Society to celebrate the appointment of Messrs. Angoh and Hajee Abdullah as Judges of the Supreme Court and the induction of Donald Ah Chuen and Pierre Ah Sue into the prestigious Independence Day Honour List.
First thing first: I’ll leave the floor to our Patron for his address.
When we circulated our invitation, Dick said we were honoring his 2 cousins; our PRO Reshad and our Honorary President, Baby Chattur, opined we were honoring their brother and Reshad insisted he was more entitled than the President to speak on behalf of Pierre. So let us listen to Reshad.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ll take up from where Reshad left to talk about our two newly appointed judges. Joseph Gerard Angoh was called to Bar in 1979 after his graduation from Middle Temple Inn. He Joined the Magistracy in 1982, was appointed Senior District Magistrate in 1987, served as Senior Crown Counsel, became Principal Crown Counsel in 1990 in which capacity he has been responsible for the drafting the Environment Protection Act. In 1994, he was transferred back to the Magistracy as Magistrate at the Intermediate Court. In 1997 he was appointed President of the Intermediate Court. In 2000, was appointed President of the Industrial Court. In 2003, was appointed Deputy Master and Registrar, then Master and Registrar at the Supreme Court, Director of Public Prosecutions and in January 2009, Puisne Judge at the Supreme Court of Mauritius. His colleague, Razack haji Abdullah also has an equally rich career.
Those of you familiar with the book of Genesis will remember that the Garden of Eden was the venue of the first crime, the first sentence, the consequences of the first crime and the consequences of the first sentencing decision. Incidentally, one observes that the draconian penalty meted out to Adam certainly did not stop crime, and in the next generation one of his sons killed the other. And the seed of controversy was sown at the start of humanity’s history about the justness of sentences and the dilemma of judges.
The office of Judges has always been onerous. The Judiciary stands at the apex of the whole of the court system in Mauritius. It is required to deliver wise judgments, administer the court system, be subject of scrutiny by the public and work to secure our system of justice and above all to discharge these burdens, and indeed to wear them lightly. Lordships, you are wise men of distinction, experience and wisdom with a plethora of qualifications and depth of experience who have been entrusted by the land to serve it without fear or favour. You are expected to be as blind to the colour of skin, social background, gender and creed as the blindfolded symbol of justice itself without which the concepts of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity would be illusory. Forget not, your predecessors had said to King Charles the First when he was convicted and executed: Be ye never so high, the law is above you”.
Lordships, your mission is challenging because the administration of justice is about the enforcement and protection of legal rights and interests of litigants. Every time a person steps into the courtroom, whether as a litigant or a witness, he expects a fair and impartial hearing from the judge. And every time you step into a courtroom, you are reminded by its aura and the presence of counsel in their robes that you are there to render justice and for no other reason. What makes your work demanding is the fact your clients are members of a plural Society with plural expectations. An example will clarify what I mean. One of your colleagues from India who had tried the most serious cases and imposed the death penalty, was attending a judicial seminar. A case study was presented: a man who, finding his wife in bed with her lover, armed himself with a shotgun and fired it at his legs causing very serious injury. The view of his British counterparts was that he merited serious punishment. Your colleague from India was horrified that a prison sentence was being contemplated at all. His view was that this man had been protecting the honour of his family. This reminds me the saying of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
I am sure you are not confused as I am as a layman. You are the inheritors of the legacy left by stalwarts of a Mauritian court system whose efficiency is legendary. We trust that the successful stewardship of the Judiciary is in sound hands. You are the pillars of the Mauritian legal system and the custodian of the rule of law. And that you will dispense justice to all those who knock at your door with fairness, impartiality and without fear or favour. Besides, your intellectual and judicial qualities are manifested in the many authoritative judgments which you have delivered.
Much as I am tempted to continue on an occasion such as this, I shall stoutly resist the urge and make sure that all of us have ample time to enjoy our desert, the programme and each other’s company. I will therefore limit myself to acknowledging that you are the recipients of a much sought after position. Congratulations and Best wishes. The judiciary has better years ahead.
HAJ ABDOOLA, ANGOH