Age limit extension judge becomes primary beneficiary of own judgment

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HARARE – A judge who overturned a High Court ruling that current judges should retire at the age of 70 has become the first beneficiary of his judgment.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended the term of Constitutional Court Justice Bharat Patel by five years, ZimLive can reveal.

Patel wrote the judgment of the Constitutional Court in the famous Marx Mupungu case which was decided in September last year.

Mupungu had successfully argued in the High Court that Chief Justice Luke Malaba had left office after reaching the retirement age of 70.

Days earlier, President Emmerson Mnangagwa rushed to pass controversial constitutional amendments allowing judges an optional five-year extension, but three High Court judges ruled the amendment could not benefit judges in exercise.

The High Court judgment was overturned on appeal to the Constitutional Court, with Patel and Justice Rita Makarau writing the majority opinion.

ZimLive has now established that Patel used his extension option when he turned 70 on April 16 last month.

In a general notice dated April 14, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said: “It is hereby notified that His Excellency the President has, on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission and acting under Article 186(2) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, extended the appointment of the Honorable Mr. Justice Bharat Patel as a Judge of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe for a period of five years from 16and April 2022.”

Mupungu’s lawyers had argued that the principle of natural justice that no one can judge a case in which he has an interest should have prevented superior court judges from hearing the case, but they were dismissed.

It turns out that Patel had less than a year to turn 70 when he wrote the Mupungu judgement. The judge will have a hard time getting rid of the accusations that he was weaving his own nest.

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