Le DPP propose de revoir l’immunité du président de la République



Malgré un travail qui exige du sérieux et de la rigueur, le Directeur des poursuites publiques (DPP) ne manque pas d’humour. Dans le courrier mensuel de son bureau, publié cette semaine, Satyajit Boolell introduit d’une manière peu orthodoxe un débat sur l’immunité du président de la République de Maurice.

«Que se passerait-il si, pour donner un exemple absurde, le président de la République tirerait une balle dans la tête du Premier ministre ? Désolé de décevoir, mais il ne pourrait comparaître devant une cour de justice car il jouit d’une immunité absolue à propos des poursuites criminelles, et ce même si ces actions sont réalisées en dehors de ses fonctions», écrit-il.

Le DPP indique par ailleurs que des privilèges similaires accordés à d’autres dirigeants de par le monde, comme par exemple la reine d’Angleterre, ont soulevé leur «dose de controverses». Se référant au jugement de Vinod Boolell dans l’affaire qui a opposé Raj Dayal au président de la République en 1997, il émet l’hypothèse que l’immunité du président à Maurice découle certainement de celle de la souveraine anglaise. En effet, le président a remplacé en 1991 le gouverneur général, qui était alors le représentant de la reine et jouissait ainsi de certains de ces privilèges.

Il s’appuie ainsi sur plusieurs affaires judiciaires entérinées contre le président ces dernières années, précisant que dans chacune d’entre elles le chef de l’Etat a échappé aux poursuites. Le DPP fait d’ailleurs référence à une plainte pour diffamation déposée par Navin Ramgoolam contre sir Anerood Jugnauth, qui occupait alors ce poste. Il n’a nullement été inquiété, et ce même si les propos en question avaient été prononcés avant qu’il n’occupe le fauteuil présidentiel.

Selon Satyajit Boolell, le fait que le président du Kenya, poursuivi pour crimes de guerre, ait choisi de son propre chef de se rendre au tribunal pénal international de La Haye cette semaine devrait susciter le débat sur l’immunité du président mauricien. Il semble d’ailleurs être d’avis que cette disposition de la Constitution devrait être revue et cette immunité diminuée. «Après tout, comme l’a dit si justement Lord Pannick, ‘ma liberté ne peut passer après le statut de quelqu’un d’autre’», conclut le DPP.
Opinion: Absolute immunity to the President
What if (to give an absurd example) the President of the Republic were himself to shoot the Prime Minister through the head ?

1. Sorry to disappoint, he would not be amenable to a court of law since he enjoys absolute immunity from criminal proceedings even though his act would clearly be outside the scope of his functions as President. Similarly if the President chooses not to pay his electricity bill, the CEB will not be able to seek legal redress.

The privileges and immunities attached to the office of the President is dealt with in section 30A of the Constitution which gives absolute immunity to the President from civil and criminal proceedings arising out of the performance of the functions of his office. Sub-section (2) goes a step further by providing that no process, warrant or summons shall be issued or executed against the President during his term of office. The combined effect of the two limbs of section 30 A not only offers him absolute immunity from court process but also makes him non compellable as a witness in any legal proceedings.

In the case of Dayal v His Excellency the President of the Republic of Mauritius (1997MR 223), Judge Vinod Boolell, shed some light on the history of Section 30A when he stated: “It may be recalled that this Section was introduced in our Constitution in 1991 when the Supreme law of the land was amended to make Mauritius a Republic (At No. 48 of 1991). Presumably Parliament thought this necessary because the predecessor of the President was the Governor-General and was himself the representative of Her Majesty the Queen in Mauritius and, as such, was considered as representative of the Crown. In the United Kingdom it is settled law that no order, summons or process can issue against the Crown.

And it can be assumed that Section 30A was enacted in order to confer an immunity akin to that enjoyed by the Crown on the President …” The immunity enjoyed by the Queen in UK is not without its own dose of controversy. It has been adversely commented as being unacceptable in a democracy. Lord Pannick QC author of Human Rights Laws and Practice, argues that in the context of a criminal trial a defendant should be able to summon any witness who can give relevant evidence, including the Sovereign?2 He gave as example the case of Lynette Fromme charged with attempting to assassinate the US President. In that case, the US Supreme Court ruled that the President could give relevant evidence and any claim to immunity would hinder the right of a defendant to a fair trial.

In July 1998 in an interesting judgment in the case of Dayal JR v The president of the Republic and Ors [1998 MR 4], the Supreme Court qualified for the first time the scope of Section 30A by making a distinction between instances where the President performed his functions acting in his own deliberate judgment and those where he acts upon advice. Chief Justice Pillay was of the opinion “that in the case of acts ostensibly performed by the President under the constitution or any other law but which in reality are performed by some other person or authority”.. where the President is bound to comply (section 64(1) of the Constitution), the decisions of the President were subject to judicial review.

In 2006, another attempt was made to further qualify Section 30A. In the case of Navinchandra Ramgoolam v Sir Anerood Jugnauth QC and Ors (2006 MR 127), a case of defamation, the plaintiff was given a short shrift by our Supreme Court when he invited the Judges to decline immunity to the President for alleged defamatory words used prior to assuming office. Plaintiff argued that our Supreme Court ought to follow the same approach as that of the US Supreme Court, which had declined immunity to President Bill Clinton, when sued by Paula Jones for sexual harassment, which took place prior to Clinton becoming President. The Court was not persuaded and

rejected the argument on the grounds that our section 30 A finds no counterpart in the American Constitution. Yet the US Supreme Court reasoning was based on the universal democratic principle of the rule of law that “no person, even a president, is above the law”. At a time when the Kenyan President is submitting himself to the International Criminal Court in the Hague answering a charge of crime against humanity, we ought to give some careful thought on the raison d’être of section 30A. After all, as Lord Pannick so aptly puts it “My liberty cannot take second place to someone else’s status”.

Satyajit Boolell SC DPP

This article can be found in the newsletter of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and on its website.

1. Borrowed from an example given by Dicey in relation to immunity of the Monarch in UK

2. Article by Lord Pannick in The Times Newspaper 2013.

Posted by on Oct 13 2014. Filed under Actualités, Economie, En Direct, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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