LUSAKA High Court judge Isaac Chali has quashed the decision and ruling of Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC) that judge Sunday Nkonde be suspended after it found him wanting for mishandling the Post Newspapers Limited liquidation matter.
The Commission had recommended to President Edgar Lungu to suspend judge Nkonde to pave way for an investigation by a tribunal.
Chief Justice Irene Mambilima last month told judge Nkonde to recuse himself from presiding over the Post Newspapers Limited liquidation case after the Judicial Complaints Commission found a prima facie case against him in a complaint of bias and professional misconduct lodged by journalist Dr Fred M’membe, who owned Post Newspapers Limited.
“One of the issues that were raised by The Post shareholders to the JCC were that judge Nkonde was biased towards the provisional liquidator of the company, to the extent that he had time to hear the lawyers representing the provisional liquidator, while he did not take time to hear the parties representing the shareholders,” an official told News Diggers.
The official said judge Nkonde was also reported for failing to recuse himself, despite having had previous interest in seeing the closure of The Post.
“So the trouble now is that when the JCC sat, it found that the allegations raised against judge Nkonde, if substantiated, were in breach of section 3, section 4(1), section 5(1), section 6(1), and section 2(a) 9(5) and 10(a) of the judicial code of conduct Act number 13 of 1999, as amended by Act number 13 of 2006. This meant that, if proved, the allegations could warrant the removal of judge Nkonde from office. Again, this is according to the Constitution, I think Article number 143 and Article 144 as amended by Act number 2 of 2016,” said the official.
But judge Nkonde sought judicial review in the Kitwe High Court.
In a consent judgment made on Tuesday, judge Chali said the Judicial Complaints Commission received a complaint dated February 10, 2017 from Dr Fred M’membe against the applicant.
He said the commission then requested judge Nkonde to respond to the allegations contained in the complaint letter.
Judge Chali noted that judge Nkonde, in his letter dated June 12, 2017, indicated his inability to respond to the allegations on the ground that the allegations were a subject of an application by the complainant (Dr M’membe) before him for his recusal.
He stated that judge Nkonde had indicated that it would be highly inappropriate for him to pre-empt his reserved ruling on Dr M’membe’s application by responding to the allegations.
“The Commission, having proceeded to consider the allegations and establishing a prima facie case against the Applicant (judge Nkonde) without giving an opportunity to the Applicant to respond to the allegations; the Decision and Ruling of the Commission dated 10th November 2017, under cause number 2017/JCC/154 is hereby removed into the High Court and accordingly quashed,” ordered judge Chali, who also ordered each party to bear their own costs.