The judge who abstained from hearing the Opposition’s hospitals case deplored the “inappropriate and rather intimidating tone” adopted by the State Advocate and the government when they urged him to reverse his recusal. 

Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti on Wednesday delivered a strongly-worded decree rejecting the State Advocate’s claims that the court had failed to follow the correct legal procedure when abstaining from the case.

The Opposition is seeking to get the State Advocate to recover funds swindled out of public coffers in the fraudulent Vitals privatisation deal. 

The judge abstained from continuing to hear the case after his partner - lawyer Yanika Bugeja - was appointed to act as curator representing Steward Assets Management Malta on the deed of rescission of ground rent on the lands concerning the public hospitals. 

But the following day, the State Advocate challenged that decision, arguing that the judge had not followed proper legal procedure and thus his decision to abstain was not legally valid. 

The government and Cabinet, who are seeking to intervene in the Opposition’s case, followed suit. 

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Grixti turned down the State Advocate’s request after taking note of the Opposition’s views on the matter. 

The court also took note of the government and Cabinet’s arguments since, although their request to intervene was still pending, they too had an interest in the matter. 

The judge deplored the “inappropriate and rather intimidating tone” adopted by the State Advocate and “unfortunately” adopted by those parties who were seeking to intervene. 

This issue was flagged because it was usually a case of “leading by example” and there was certainly no need for such a “fierce tone” in an application requesting the revocation of a decree, said the judge.

Every member of the judiciary was not to face recusal capriciously.

But the principles of natural justice called for “absolute transparency” in the judicial process and the judge’s duty was to apply foresight when any reason for recusal cropped up. Not all might necessarily think along those lines particularly when the person was “politically blindfolded”, remarked Grixti. 

The judge was to ensure that the court’s independence remained untainted not only throughout the proceedings but also once judgment was delivered, so that no one might point fingers, especially if the matter were to end up before some foreign forum. 

He had already accepted to continue to preside over the case after his familial ties to surgeon Charles Grixti were flagged, observed the judge. 

That medical professional had been involved in the due diligence exercise concerning Vitals Global Healthcare as the original concessionaire on the privatization deal. 

As for his partner’s brief as curator, the judge pointed out that that role did not come to an end once the deed of rescission was published. 

The judge concluded that his decision to abstain was in conformity with legal procedure and was to stand. 

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