NEWS

Judgment On Notice For Seventh-Day Adventist, Ministry of Education Case

The Attorney-General’s Office, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, has appealed against the ruling made by the Civil High Court last year.
15 Feb 2020 10:35
Judgment On Notice For Seventh-Day Adventist, Ministry of Education Case
Seventh-day Adventist Church lawyers Andrew Tokley QC (front) followed by David Bennett QC outside court on February 14, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The Court of Appeal will deliver its judgment on notice in the appeal case involving the Ministry of Education and the Vatuvonu Seventh-Day Adventist College.

The Attorney-General’s Office, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, has appealed against the ruling made by the Civil High Court last year.

The respondents in the matter are the Vatuvonu SDA College, Luke Narabe, Aisake Tiko Kadukeinadave, Victor Bonetti, Ram Chandra and Josateki Talemaitoga as the registered trustees for the SDA Church in Fiji.

For the appellant, Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma, appeared with his three co-counsels.

For the respondent, Counsels William Clarke, Mareta Tikoisuva, Andrew Tokley QC (Queen’s Councel) and David Bennett QC appeared.

The matter was called before a panel of three Judges, Justice Suresh Chandra, Justice Anare Tuilevuka and Justice Chandrasiri Lecamwasa.

Mr Sharma said the appeal should be allowed in respect of the High Court’s decision on the matter.

“The appellant was concerned with the judgment of the High Court which decided that Government was required to appoint a civil servant as principal of the relevant in terms of the Open Merit Recruitment System process and in a manner consistent with the constitutional right in section 22(4) of the Constitution”.

Section 22 (4) of the Constitution states: Every religious community or denomination, and every cultural or social community, has the right to establish, maintain and manage places of education whether or not it receives financial assistance from the State, provided that the educational institution maintains any standard prescribed by law.

Mr Sharma said that the Government was required by law to appoint a civil servant and the proposed appointment of a teacher including the principal must be acceptable to the church.

Mr Sharma said Section 4 (3)   of the Fijian constitution states that the state and religion are separate.

Section 4 (3) of the Constitution states: Religion and the State are separate.

Mr Sharma told the court that the state and all persons in public office must respect all religions.

And they must not dictate any religious belief and must not prefer or advance, by any means, any particular religion, religious denomination, religious belief, or religious practice over another, or over any non-religious belief.

He added that any religious organisation could appoint their own heads of schools provided they pay for their salaries.

Mr Sharma’s co-counsel told the court that the closure of the school must be in accordance with the Education Act.

Respondent’s counsel David Bennett QC said the arguments of the SDA was that the church had a constitutional right to not accept the appointment of a principal to its schools.

He told the court that the Fijian Constitution conferred on the church the right to establish, maintain and manage schools.

He further added that the exercise of that right meant the church did not have to accept a principal the ministry wished to appoint to its school.

QC Bennett, told the court that if the Ministry of Education chose to provide financial assistance to a school, it could not make it a condition of such assistance that the school must accept any appointment made by the Government.

QC Bennett told the court that the church also argued that Section 22 (4) of the Constitution gave it the right to close its schools if it wished without having to obtain the Permanent Secretary of Education’s approval.

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedbackashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper