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"The decision to deprive a person of his liberty and whether the person should be charged with an offence or not is not made by the police”

Interview: Milan Meetarbhan

‘The last word on whether a person is granted bail or not rests with the judiciary and not with the police’

* ‘If law enforcement authorities talk of narco-politicians, then either they have said too much or too little. They must come clean with the information they have’

* ‘I do not believe that the conditions for free, fair and credible elections in accordance with international norms are fully satisfied in the country’

Constitutional lawyer Milan Meetarbhan shares in this week’s interview his views on the conflict opposing the Commissioner of Police and the ODPP, as well as on the postponement of municipal elections being challenged in court by a group of activists and hopes for a prompt determination by the Supreme Court so as not to go against the will of the electorate regarding the established mandate. He also comments on the opposition parties delaying a resolution of the issues that are preventing them from coming up with a workable alliance.

Mauritius Times: The Police Headquarters Special Striking Team (SST) has hogged the headlines these past several weeks, tracking, as the Team’s head puts it, drug traffickers as well as “narco-politicians”. The SST seems to have the support of the Prime Minister, who this week took to task those in certain institutions who would have been lured by the easy money of drug traffickers and “media sensationalism” around what is perceived as politically motivated arrests. How do you react to that?

Milan Meetarbhan: The Commissioner of Police is responsible for operational matters of the Police whereas the Minister for Home Affairs may give to the Commissioner of Police such general directions of policy with respect to the maintenance of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary, and the Commissioner must comply with such directions or cause them to be complied with.

In his public statements and in Parliament, Pravind Jugnauth, the minister responsible for the police, has been very supportive of the Police and presumably he is satisfied that directions, if any, of policy with respect to the maintenance of public safety and public order he may have given to the Commissioner of Police have been complied with.

There is in the country, as has been stated by many in recent years, aserious breach of trust in our institutions. The Police is one of the main institutions in the country which require the full confidence of the people. The question should not be about the media but about why there may be lack of trust in our institutions and what these institutions themselves are doing to deserve trust or restore trust.

* What the Prime Minister’s stand really indicates is that the SST, whatever its legal standing, will keep on chasing drug traffickers (which is what is expected from that Team) and “narco-politicians”, especially those perceived to be against the current government, unhindered – unless checked by the judiciary. Would that be a fair way of putting it?

The people do not know who these narco-politicians are and, if there are any, that’s a very serious matter.
If law enforcement authorities talk of narco-politicians, then either they have said too much or too little. They must come clean with the information they have, conduct proper investigations, and bring the matter before the courts at the earliest.

* We witnessed last Monday, 26th June, the police taking issue with the Office of the DPP’s stand not to object to the bail application of lawyer AkilBissessur following his latest arrest by the SST for what has become popularly known as “drug posting”. The police displeasure with the ODPP was expressed in probably a bit too strong words. Are there rules or conventions as to who or which institution has the upper hand in such matters?

Under our Constitution, the DPP is empowered to take over and continue any criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other person or authority and to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by himself or any other person or authority.

These powers are vested in the DPP to the exclusion of any other person or authority. There is therefore no doubt that the DPP can take over proceedings or discontinue proceedings started by the Police represented by Counsel of its own choosing.

The question that that may arise in the case you mention is whether the rule also applies to bail and other applications made prior to a formal charge being lodged. In other words when does the DPP’s control start? Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 30 June 2023

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