Justice Ramlal recuses himself from custody battle
• child returned to biological mother
March 23, 2007
Describing the case as a comedy of errors, Justice William Ramlal, yesterday, recused himself from a child custody battle and ordered the child returned to the biological mother.
The ruling annuls the temporary legal guardianship which was granted to hinterland businesswoman Bibi Kalil Gafoor, pending the determination of the case by another judge.
The judge's decision comes after what he referred to as an adverse publication in the media.
The woman, Gillian Fredericks of Kopinang, Potaro , who claimed that she left her son with Gafoor while she sought employment, accused the businesswoman of demanding payment for the child's return.
The judge said that Fredericks is reported in Stabroek News as saying that she did not necessarily want the child returned, but merely wanted access to him.
He contended that the newspaper report has severely prejudiced the application made by Fredericks for the return of her child.
He noted that, when he enquired yesterday, Fredericks told him she did not mind having her son returned, if Gafoor was so inclined.
Justice Ramlal reiterated that the ruling is in no way connected to the weakness of the court, but is solely based on Fredericks 's change of position.
He explained that, instead of transferring the case to the Chief Justice for reappointment, he will add it to the April session chamber list, which will be heard by another judge.
The judge clarified that, if the parties wished, they could have the matter subtracted from the chamber list and request of the Chief Justice that it be reassigned.
Justice Ramlal said that, upon commencement of the hearing, he had granted Gafoor temporary guardianship since the natural mother was in an unstable condition.
He maintained that the court is still fortified in its view that Fredericks is of questionable stability.
Justice Ramlal said the media house (Stabroek News) interviewed Fredericks after the hearing, even though they knew the matter was sub judice .
The judge emphasised that Fredericks 's remarks in the media have the same effect on her case as the protests and electronic mail had on Gafoor's case.
Commenting on Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues's subpoena, the judge said that he has since accepted an apology.
He disclosed that the Minister visited him and requested to be excused from the hearing owing to the illness of her mother in the interior.
Justice Ramlal added that she admitted to being the author of what he called the “offensive sections of the e-mail” and outlined the circumstances under which it was written.
“She said she intended no disrespect to the court, and I have accepted her apology wholly,” Justice Ramlal said.
The Minister has also instructed that the e-mail be retracted from everyone to whom it was sent.
Outside the courtroom, there was an emotional parting between the three-year-old child and his guardian.
The child began crying and clutched to a teary-eyed Gafoor as she was about to hand him over to his biological mother.
He was later seen clinging to a male relative, and appeared to be readjusting to his parent.
• Attorney-at-law Rishi Kissoon appeared on behalf of Gafoor, while attorney-at-law Deborah Backer made legal representation for Fredericks .