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Elections Office Seeks Legal Advice on Rabuka Case

The Fijian Elections Office will not speculate on any on-going court matter or its impact until the court has made a formal decision that is binding on all parties, says
01 Nov 2018 12:29
Elections Office Seeks Legal Advice on Rabuka Case
Mohammed Saneem

The Fijian Elections Office will not speculate on any on-going court matter or its impact until the court has made a formal decision that is binding on all parties, says Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

He made the remarks when asked what steps the FEO would take if Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader Sitiveni Rabuka is convicted at the appeal stage.

He said: “The Fijian Elections Office is in the process of obtaining proper legal advice on this matter and a statement will be made in relation to this matter following the decision of the court.”

He said FEO would not make any further comments and any media that wished to obtain comments about the issue may do so from their own legal counsel.

“As at this point the Fijian Elections Office regards all candidates for the general election as eligible to contest,” he said.

Referring to Section 256 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 2009 which outlines the powers of the High Court, prominent lawyer and former Fiji Law Society president Devanesh Sharma said the High Court had every power that the Magistrates Court had.

He said in an appeal the court either upheld the appeal and made orders relating to the relief sought by the applicant or it dismissed the appeal.

“The fact of the matter is it is very rare for the High Court to step in and give a decision unless it is a pure question of law,” Mr Sharma said.

“But if it comes down to the credibility of the witnesses than the High Court has not seen the witnesses so on what basis will it assist whether witnesses have given credible evidence or not given credible evidence so that is the reason why in most cases the High Court even if it allows the appeal normally sends it back to the magistrate’s court for retrial.”

Prominent Suva lawyer, Devanesh Sharma

Prominent Suva lawyer, Devanesh Sharma

However, he said the High Court had the power to vary a decision from the magistrate’s court.

“They’ve got the power. They can vary the decision and if you look at the other provision that is very important is Section 256 (2) (e).”

It states that the High Court can make such other orders in the matter as it may seem just, and may by such order exercise any power which the Magistrates Court might have exercised.

Mr Sharma said if the magistrates court can acquit and convict people than the fact of the matter is that the High Court also has that power.

“Whether the High Court exercises that power or not is really something that none of us can say at this stage,” he said.

“In actual fact it can enter a conviction, but the qualification is: Will the High Court do it in light of the fact the High Court has not heard the witnesses give evidence?”

Edited by Percy Kean

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