Paul Berénger vs DPP

By Murli Dhar

Can the Leader of the Opposition threaten a holder of a Constitutional post?

In a recent public statement, the Leader of the Opposition stated that he was waiting to see whether the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) will take forward the case ICAC was instituting against Pravind Jugnauth in the matter of the MedPoint clinic. This statement was made on the sides of statements made by SAJ that he, on his part, was defying ICAC to prove the accusation under which it had arrested Pravind Jugnauth. When you put this together, Paul Bérenger clearly considers that, as in his view, Pravind Jugnauth has no case to answer, the DPP would face consequences if he decided nevertheless to send the case to be determined by the court.

This is no less than a threat insofar as should the DPP be going in the direction in which Paul Bérenger is not expecting him to go, he (the DPP) would have to answer for the same. The DPP is the holder of a Constitutional post and he is entitled in his absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute a case or otherwise. It is a routine for him to refer cases for trial to the courts on a regular basis. Some of those cases stand up to the test of the prosecution; others are thrown out. All this is normal. The DPP can appeal against cases referred by him to the court which the latter would have thrown out.

Our judicial system operates under this well-established institutional arrangement and laid-down principles. We firmly believe that the Leader of the Opposition has no right to interfere with the manner in which the DPP, whoever he be, should conduct the business of his office. At this stage, the question arises as to whether it would be acceptable for the Leader of the Opposition to get away after delivering this veiled threat to the holder of a Constitutional post. If so, there is a grave threat not only to the office of the DPP but also to whichever public institution does not do the bidding of the Leader of the Opposition. We would like to be enlightened.


* Published in print edition on 20 April 2012

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