Express Editorial : Daily

A possible sedition charge against radio and TV Jaagriti chief executive officer (CEO) and talk show host Sat Maharaj was but one of the issues arising out of the police execution of a search warrant at that media house on April 18, 2019.

The warrant itself, and whether police were correct in not providing it to personnel at the station, became the subject of legal challenges. This is not an inconsequential matter. It has implications for the all-important protections contained in the principle of due process and impacts all members of the public upon whom a search warrant might be executed in the future.

It is therefore of deep concern to this newspaper that, thus far, the State has defied an order of the court in not yet producing the warrant as instructed.

In this environment of protracted criminal ascendency and re-energised push back by law enforcement, the balance of rights has and will continue to be hotly debated, and rightly so. The final authority to which both law enforcement and the public resort when the balance of rights is perceived to be tipped in favour of one side or the other is the courts. Orders of the court in this context, therefore, assume a weight, in real time and real circumstances, that is arguably even greater than the virtues extolled in legal philosophy. It becomes critical therefore for the courts to be respected and its orders obeyed for, without compliance, the rule of law gives way to anarchy.

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Citizens routinely face severe consequences for their refusal or inability to surrender to orders of the courts. A nagging challenge that has preoccupied the minds of activists and law enforcement personnel is the breach by violent intimate partners of protection orders issued by the courts. Wondering whether the remedy of a restraining order has been discredited by non-compliance, Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) chair Lynette Seebaran-Suite in April noted the reduction in applications by victims for such orders, a 33 per cent decline in applications since 2009, she said then.

A State struggling to find remedies for non-compliance of bona fide court orders that often result in the brutal deaths of its citizens cannot itself violate orders of the court made against it. In a 28-page judgment by High Court Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh late last month, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was given seven days in which to provide Mr Maharaj with a copy of the search warrant executed at Central Broadcasting on April 18 and to have the original available for inspection. Those seven days expired last Friday, August 2, 2019 without the order being fulfilled.

We cannot communicate forcefully enough the implications of the State violating an order of the court. We urge the TTPS, through Mr Griffith, to comply and set an example for citizens to follow. Non-compliance is a message to the population that they, too, can defy the law.

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