The incoming Prime Minister should not have appointed Mr Pravind Jugnauth and Mr Showkutally Soodhun as members of the Cabinet of Ministers because they have cases pending against them in the country’s law courts. In all respected democracies, Ministers resign their post as soon as they are likely to be prosecuted for a controversial offence. Mr Andrew Mitchell, a member of the British Cabinet, resigned his position on 19 October 2012 because it was alleged that, one month earlier, he had insulted police directing traffic on Downing Street in London. Eventual investigations revealed the innocence of Mr Mitchell. The cases against our two newly appointed ministers are more serious than the one against Mr Mitchell because they have gone well beyond the investigations stage. In a related development, the Indian Supreme Court recently voiced the view that filling of ministerial posts by people against whom there are criminal or corruption charges violates the principles of good governance.
The case against Mr Pravind Jugnauth arises out of an investigation by the Independent Commission against Corruption on the purchase of the MedPoint clinic by the Labour-MSM-PMSD Government in 2010. The investigation led to the arrest of Mr Pravind Jugnauth on 22 September 2011. The provisional accusation laid against him was that « on or about the 23rd December 2010 at New Government Centre Port-Louis, the said Pravind Kumar Jugnauth whilst being the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development, approved reallocation of funds to the tune of Rs 144,701,300 to pay MedPoint Ltd in which company a relative of the said Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, one Mrs Shalini Devi Malhotra, born Jugnauth, held 86,983 (23.59%) shares. » Mr Jugnauth was released on bail after providing a surety of Rs 75,000 and signing a debt recognition of Rs 200,000. He also had to surrender his passport to the Passport and Immigration Office. On 14 March 2014, the Director of Public Prosecution issued a communique stating that “there is sufficient evidence to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth for conflict of interest contrary to Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2002.” Mr Pravind Jugnauth is due to appear in the Intermediary Court on 20 January 2015 to answer the charges levelled against him.
Mr Soodhun has two cases against him in the country’s law courts. In the first case, Mr Soodhun is alleged to have participated in a gathering on 2 May 2009 during which window panes were broken and copies of a newspaper were burned. He was arrested on 4 May 2009 after being accused of holding a public gathering without having given written notice to the Commissioner of Police, using threatening words at a public gathering and taking part in an unlawful assembly. He was set free on bail of Rs 10,000 and a debt recognition of Rs 25,000. Mr Soodhun will hear the outcome of this case when he appears in the Intermediary Court on 19 January 2015. In the second case, Mr Soodhun was arrested on 28 September 2011 and accused of fabricating “false facts against the Prime Minister”. He was released on bail after providing two sureties of Rs 25,000 each and signing a debt recognition of Rs 200,000. The second case against Mr Soodhun is still ongoing.
In response to a petition on Indian politicians in the same situation as Mr Jugnauth and Mr Soodhun, the Supreme Court of India has, on 27 August 2014, expressed the opinion that the country’s Prime Minister should not nominate as Ministers persons against whom criminal and corruption charges have been framed. « Will any reasonably prudent master leave the keys of his chest with a servant whose integrity is doubted? » the panel of five judges asked, adding, « corruption is an enemy of the nation. As a trustee of the constitution, the Prime Minister is expected not to appoint unwarranted persons as ministers. » In the same opinion, the judges stated that the Prime Minister “has to bear in mind that unwarranted elements or persons who are facing charge in certain category of offences may thwart or hinder the canons of constitutional morality or principles of good governance and eventually diminish the constitutional trust.”
Good governance is one of the key principles on which the present Alliance Lepep Government has been given a mandate. In its “Manifeste électoral”, the Alliance Lepep stated that a “gouvernance exemplaire” will constitute “la règle pour le Premier ministre, les ministres, les députés, les conseillers mais aussi à tous les niveaux dans chaque ministère, organisme paraétatique et département de la fonction publique”. Consequently, the Alliance should walk the talk by asking Mr Pravind Jugnauth and Mr Showkutally Soodhun to vacate their posts as Ministers until the dismissal of their cases in the country’s courts of law.