Hargun appointed as Chief Justice
Judicial independence is a vital safeguard of the Constitution, the island’s new Chief Justice said yesterday.
Narinder Hargun added that the requirement of the judiciary to be independent was not a legal technicality.
Mr Justice Hargun said: “The judicial oath requires us to treat the Government just as any other party which may come before the court.”
He explained that rights outlined in the Constitution were dependent on an independent judiciary.
Mr Justice Hargun said: “All of these fundamental rights which are enshrined in our Constitution would be empty slogans unless there was an independent judiciary.”
He was speaking at his swearing-in ceremony by John Rankin, the Governor, at Government House yesterday.
Mr Justice Hargun, who replaces Mr Justice Kawaley in the job, said it was a “great honour and privilege” to be appointed.
He added: “I am grateful for the confidence shown in me by his Excellency the Governor and members of the judicial and legal services community.”
He said that his primary concern was to “apply the law as I find it, and to apply the law impartially”.
Mr Justice Hargun added that a special sitting of the Supreme Court on Friday to mark Mr Justice Kawaley’s retirement highlighted the “genuine affection and deep respect” Bermuda’s lawyers had for Mr Kawaley.
Mr Justice Hargun said that Mr Kawaley deserved Bermuda’s “unqualified gratitude” for his exemplary legal service.
He added that despite Bermuda’s small size it faced the same problems as any “large multiracial, multicultural congress”.
Mr Justice Hargun said: “The judiciary has been keenly aware of the social and economic setting in which it is operating.”
He added that the job of chief justice was a challenging one. Mr Justice Hargun said: “By accepting this appointment, I dedicate myself to meet that challenge and to administer justice in accordance with the judicial oath I have just taken.”
Mr Rankin told guests at the event: “I am confident Mr Hargun will carry out his responsibilities dutifully and well, helping to maintain this island’s standing as a legal jurisdiction of the highest order.”
The announcement of Mr Hargun as the replacement for Mr Kawaley caused political controversy.
David Burt, the Premier, said in April the appointment was “an affront” to the Government, but has never explained why.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, was also criticised after his comments in the House of Assembly about the appointment.
Colonel Burch was speaking as he attacked Mr Kawaley for voicing concerns about staffing levels in the court system.
He said: “In all of these things that we do, at least as I see it, you must leave a legacy and if you want that legacy to be something people remember fondly, regardless of their political persuasion, you must produce somebody to take your place other than an Indian.”
Mr Hargun, earlier depicted as a South African by Derrick Burgess, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, was born in India, although his family moved to Britain when he was a child.
Mr Burt later issued a statement reminding Colonel Burch and his colleagues of “the need to elevate debates”.
Mr Hargun studied law at the world-renowned London School of Economics, and left with an LLB and master of laws degrees in 1976 and qualified as a barrister in England and Wales.
He has lived in Bermuda for more than 30 years and is now Bermudian.
Neither Mr Burt nor Colonel Burch attended the swearing-in, but Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, was at the event.
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