THE Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) has the legal authority to bring charges against and prosecute an accused person.
That was the ruling by Suva Magistrate Thushara Rajasinghe as he dismissed a preliminary objection by Suva businessman Benjamin Padarath yesterday.
Mr Padarath's lawyer Rajend Chaudhry raised an objection that FICAC prosecutors did not have the authority to bring charges against an accused person nor conduct prosecution, under the Criminal Procedure Code.
"Having carefully considered the submission of the prosecution and the defence and the scope of this preliminary objection, I am of the view that the issues of whether FICAC is a public prosecutorial agency and the duties and the role of public prosecutors should be an academic discussion in socio-legal forum than before the judicial-legal forum," he said.
Mr Rajasinghe said his ruling would focus only on whether FICAC had the legal authority to lay charges and prosecute.
He said the law dealing with the powers of FICAC were mainly found in the FICAC promulgation, which included the powers and duties of the Commission of FICAC.
He said the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions to appoint public prosecutors and police prosecutors pursuant to section 55 of the CPD did not affect the powers of FICAC to institute proceedings or to conduct prosecution.
Meanwhile, Mr Padarath pleaded not guilty to a charge of giving false information to a public servant.
FICAC said they needed time to serve the second phase of disclosures.
Mr Rajasinghe adjourned the case to January 17.