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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel has denied he verbally abused or swore at a Durban High Court clerk he had reprimanded for allegedly not performing her duties.
He said he had read a Sunday Times report, about a crimen injuria case opened against him, with disgust. He said he was hurt by the report, adding it had damaged his reputation.
Patel said yesterday he had reported the matter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s office.
“I’m not going to tolerate inefficiency. I want the high court to run properly,” he said of his decision to reprimand the clerk.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed that a case of crimen injuria had been opened on Friday night against the judge president.
A court clerk had opened the case at the Durban Central police station.
Naicker would not reveal the identity of the complainant, nor would he say when the alleged incident took place or provide further details.
“The case is still being investigated and when finalised will go to the public prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute,” he said.
Patel said he was contacted by the Sunday Times on Friday after he had left court and that he was unaware of the case at the time.
“I did reprimand a female clerk on Wednesday for not discharging her function.
“I did so in the presence of the court manager,” he said.
“I did not lower her dignity. I have to run a high court and if there’s a problem I need to address it.”
He said he was hurt by the article. “This was a concerted effort to discredit me and the damage has been done.”
Patel felt it was premature to report on the charge, because the facts had not been investigated.
“I want justice to take its course and if they want to charge me, then do so,” he said. “As judge president I need to ensure that everyone is performing their duties.”
Patel suggested that the Daily News speak to the Durban High Court manager, Karlene Marais, who he said was an independent witness.
However when contacted for comment yesterday, Marais said she was not allowed to speak to the media directly.
Claude Naiker, the Public Servants Association’s provincial manager, confirmed that they were helping the clerk with her internal grievance but not with her crimen injuria case.
He said it was alleged that the judge president verbally abused the clerk and swore at her.
“This appears to be an isolated incident so there would be a grievance hearing so that the situation can be amicably resolved,” Naiker said.
“In this case, the Judicial Services Commission might get involved, but I don’t think this would be necessary as it was not an ongoing problem.”
He explained that the employer, or the Department of Justice, had 30 days to resolve the matter, failing which it could be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the bargaining council or the Public Service Commission.
The judge president denied swearing at the clerk or using abusive language.
He said he was aware that the police had come to the court yesterday to take Marais’s statement, which was why she was possibly told not to speak to the media before then.