Saturday, December 5, 2009

The National Assembly, the Law Making Process and the Role of Judges

The new National Assembly building was officially opened on Thursday, 3rd December 2009. The premises of one of the 3 branches of Government is now located at Ile du Port. The magnanimous and impressive building was a gift from the Government of China.

The National Assembly of Seychelles consists of 34 Members of the National Assembly ("MNA"). Of the 34, 25 are directly elected from district elections and 9 are proportionally elected members. Basically, for each 10% of the total votes cast in a general National Assembly elections that a political party obtains, that party is allowed an extra seat in the National Assembly - hence the 9 extra members, theoretically, it is possible to have a maximum of 10 proportionally elected members.

Of the 34 MNA's, one would be appointed as the Speaker of the National Assembly, one a Deputy Speaker, a leader of Government Business and a Leader of Opposition.

The National Assembly is the legislative branch of Government and so it has the powers to create, amend and abolish laws. Its powers are ultimate in this respect, except that it cannot amend the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms contained in the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles, this charter of rights may only be amended by the people through a referendum.

So the laws of the land are created by the National Assembly, it is a common error of certain layman to think that it is the judiciary that makes the laws. In fact, the role of the judiciary is to apply the laws and, if the circumstances permit it, to interpret the law. However, where the law on a particular area is vague, lacking or non-existent, the judiciary may seek to fill that void. But this happens in very rare occasions.

A judge must apply the law as is, if the law is clear, he cannot sway from it, if he does so, he acts against the law, against the laws passed by the National Assembly and against the will of the people who voted in the MNA's. If the laws of procedure are such, he must follow it, he cannot sway from it, to do so puts his competence as a judge in question, but to do so deliberately puts him in contempt of the law that he swore under oath to uphold. This is misbehaviour in its highest sense.

Article 134 of the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles provides for the removal of judges where it is found that the judge is either physically or mentally incapable of  carrying out his duties or for misbehaviour, these grounds are not exhaustive.

The same article gives the Constitutional Appointments Authority ("CAA") the power to launch an investigation against a judge. The CAA shall appoint a tribunal of 3 members who may only be selected from persons who have held office as judges or from eminent jurists of proven integrity. This tribunal then investigates the matter and makes its recommendation to the CAA. Article 134(3) of the Constitution states that if the tribunal recommends the removal of a judge, that judge must be removed by the President.

The law cannot be any clearer.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Magistrate Sworn In

Mr Brassel Adeline was sworn in on the 16th October 2009 as a Magistrate before Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende.

Previously, Mr Adeline worked as the Chairman of the Family Tribunal in conjunction with the post of Assistant/Deputy Registrar General. He was also associated with the Law Centre, headed by Mr Wilby Lucas, who is also the incumbent Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. He was admitted as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Seychelles in 2006. At the turn of the millenium, he was also a Member of the National Assembly for SPPF, the ruling party.

He obtained his bachelors degree in law from the University of East London and completed the Legal Practice Course at Northumbria University.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interim Bar Association Website Now Online

In late July 2009, the Bar Association of Seychelles ("BAS") announced that it planned to launch its website by the end of October 2009. To that end, the BAS has launched its interim website.

This can be viewed at

The Seychelles Legal Environment ("SLE") is presently the only informative online legal resource on Seychelles, the website of the BAS would complement the purpose of the SLE to help educate the public on the Seychelles legal scene.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Former Chief Justice Perera appointed law commissioner

Today, the Nation announced that former Chief Justice Ranjan Perera had been appointed to the newly created post of Law Commissioner.

He will be tasked with causing to be published an up to date and complete volume of the Laws of Seychelles. There has been no single complete volume published since 1996.

The Law Commissioner may also recommend statutory law reform, hopefully, after consultation with the various and relevant stakeholders.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende ushers in era of Judicial Reform

In the traditional speech delivered by the Chief Justice at the opening of the Supreme Court, newly appointed Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende this morning spoke at length on the need for judicial reform.

The opening of the Supreme Court is marked with a mass, alternating yearly from the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals in Victoria. This year, the mass took place at the Anglican Cathedral - St. Paul's. Bishop Wiehe delivered the surmon and he spoke for transgressors to be punished, but also for them to be reformed.

This was followed by the procession, whereby the judges, magistrate, attorneys, state counsels, public prosecutors and judicial staff, in full courtroom attire, marched from St. Paul's Cathedral to the Supreme Court premises. Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende inspected the all- female guard of honour and greeted all the judicial officers present. Everyone then crowded into Courtroom no. 1 for the Chief Justice's speech. Also present were the President of the Court of Appeal Mr Francis MacGregor; Justices of Appeal Mr Jacques Hodoul and Mr Anthony Fernando, the Chairman of the Constitutional Appointments Authority Mr Jeremy Bonnelame, the Attorney General Mr Ronny Govinden and certain diplomatic figures.

The theme of Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende's speech was that of judicial reform. He mentioned the poor perception of the public, both locally and abroad, of the judiciary. He admitted that the views he has received represents only a fraction of society, but that the views appear to be unanimous. The perception of the public on the judiciary is wholely negative. The public sees the judiciary as inefficient and susceptible to external influence. He admitted that this is but a perception, and that that may not be in line with reality, but he added that the public's perception of the judiciary also needs to be addressed. He noted guidance on the way forward can be taken from our Constitution.

He proposed the creation of a court users committee comprising of representatives of various organisations of civil society, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Association, which could consult directly with the judiciary with the aim of improving the service provided by the judiciary to the public at large.

He spoke of the mounting number of cases, both criminal and civil and noted that many more cases were being filed in court than that being disposed off. He stated that in order to deal with the case load there is a need for more Puisne Judges and more Magistrates. He stated such judicial officers should be sourced locally, for sustainable capacity. He noted that there is a need to improve the morale and job satisfaction of court staff and stated that one manner in which this may be addressed is through the increase in court staff salaries. He also mentioned that the judiciary should become financially independent, that the judiciary should have a closer reach of parliament in addressing its budget.

He spoke of the need for the improvement of the transcribing of court proceedings. He stated that the current equipment used and the current process is unacceptable. He pointed out that there were court proceedings over 2 years old that were yet to be transcribed. He proposed the bringing in of new equipment, especially that of multiple channel recording equipment, which would facilitate the process of transcribing court proceedings. He noted that this was a reason to delays.

Also with regards to delays in the court process, he noted that there were civil cases from 1998 that were still pending and criminal cases from 2000. He noted that there were numerous reasons for the delays but that one element was that of how easily cases can be adjourned. He spoke of trial date certainty and proposed that parties be penalised through costs for seeking adjournments, he admitted that there may be a need for legislative reform to usher this in. He stated that many civil matters could be settled out of court but for the fact that certain parties knew that they could take advantage of a slow judicial process. He reasoned that a speedier court process would encourage litigants to settle out of court.

He stated that he has been assured by the President of the Republic, James Michel, that he will be able to do his job without interference, and that the judiciary will be able to function independently and impartially. He noted that the independence of the judiciary is safeguarded and enshrined in the Constitution.

He ended his speech with a poem whose theme was the apparent impossibility of a task and of how everyone around you may state and firmly believe that a task was impossible to achieve, but that one had to at least try to achieve it. He asked for all stakeholders to work together to help reform the judiciary and stated that there is a lot of work to be done.

His speech was greeted with applause, which was against convention.

Thereafter, at the reception held at the court premises, many members of the Bar expressed that they were impressed with the Chief Justice's speech and hoped that he can effect the reforms he proposed. However, certain cynics believed that, however well intentioned Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende is, he will not be able to reform the judiciary alone.

Nevertheless, one member of the Bar quipped that, after a long while, Seychelles will have an independent judiciary once again. Another retorted that perhaps the Seychelles is only getting an independent Chief Justice.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Supreme Court Re-Opening Tomorrow

The Supreme Court of Seychelles re-opens tomorrow. This is usually heralded with a procession in Victoria. Judges and lawyers in full court attire will stroll along from St. Paul's Cathedral to the Supreme Court of Seychelles.

The event will start with mass at St. Paul's Cathedral at 9am. The procession will start thereafter, and this is likely to be at around 10am.

Since his arrival last month, the new Chief Justice has met with various stakeholders, including the Bar Association of Seychelles, and he has undertaken to do his best to improve upon the functioning and image of the judiciary. The opening ceremony is also marked with a speech from the Chief Justice and many will be very interested to hear what the new Chief Justice has to say.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Chief Justice Sworn In

Last Friday, 21st August, Frederick Egonda-Ntende was sworn in before the President of the Republic of Seychelles as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. This comes after the post was vacated in May earlier this year by former Chief Justice Ranjan Perera. In the interim, Judge Bernadin Renaud was appointed Acting Chief Justice.

The appointment of Egonda-Ntende brings a certain sense of direction to a judiciary that is under fire from the public and international observers. The Court of Appeal aside, cases move too slowly before the courts, a problem contributed to by a number of factors but ultimately the blame lies with the judiciary, as highligted recently in a workshop held in early August, organized by the UNDP and UNODC in which many, if not virtually all stakeholders (present were Justices of Appeal, members of the Bar, the Police etc) were invited and asked to be frank by the UN members.

The judiciary also suffers from a reputation for lack of efficiency, corruption and partiality. The new Chief Justice, in a statement to usher in his appointment, has stated that he will work to turn the Seychelles judiciary into a centre of excellence in the region. Only time will tell if he may accomplish this and what he does in the next few months will determine whether there is hope again for the judiciary, where there is none.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The State of the Magistracy - Crisis on the Horizon

Last week, the SBC interviewed the Master and Registrar of the Supreme Court of Seychelles, Mr Melchior Vidot, on various issues regarding the state of the judiciary. Mr Vidot stated that the two Tanzanian Magistrates who were recruited in November 2008 have tendered in their notice of resignation and Mr Vidot added that another Magistrate is also likely to resign. The fact that we have 4 Magistrates and that number is likely to, at the very least, be halved, shows a worrying trend. A crisis is on the horizon.

It is ostensible amongst legal personnel that many lawyers are unattracted to taking on a position in the magistracy. The key reason being that the pay is unattractive. It is even unattractive to the Government Lawyers - the State Counsels. In the efforts of the Department of Legal Affairs to prevent its State Counsels from leaving and joining the private bar, the salaries of State Counsels were increased to such a level that the salary of a magistrate can now only attract the most junior of State Counsels (those who are still on the starting salaries). Many argue that there really is no need to further increase the salaries of State Counsels as the only other competitive option open to a State Counsel is to join the private bar. In the same vein, why should a more senior State Counsel, with all his/her extra allowances for being a member of a number of boards, leave such a comfortable situation for the tiresome and stressful life of a magistrate for only a few more thousand rupees at the end of the month? And for the even more senior State Counsels, all those extra allowances in fact pushes his/her 'take home earnings' above that of a magistrate.

A career path needs to be worked on and outlined for the State Counsel. As most lawyers start off as a State Counsel and then move on, the options available to the State Counsel must be broadened. We must be realistic and we cannot chase after the lawyers that joined the private bar and expect them to return to the public service as a magistrate. The salaries of State Counsels should be frozen and there should be an increase in the salary and/or gratuity of the magistrate, just enough to be competitive.

Another solution is to appoint the more senior Public Prosecutors as magistrates. Many legal personnel agree that a couple of the most senior public prosecutors could do a good job at dealing with criminal cases of the magistrates' courts. Although the public prosecutor has virtually no experience in civil matters, the more senior ones are very well versed in the criminal law and procedure.

Although it is now the practice that only qualified lawyers are appointed as magistrates, there is nothing in the law that prevents the more senior public prosecutors from being appointed as magistrates (with a criminal cases portfolio).

The crisis on the horizon can be averted.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bar Association of Seychelles to launch website

Word has been around for several months now that the Bar Association of Seychelles ("BAS") is planning on launching a website. Today, the BAS issued a circular stating that they expect to launch their website before the end of October 2009.

One of the aims of the website will be to provide the public with a complete list of Seychelles lawyers. This is to help curb complaints made to the BAS that certain persons and organizations are passing themselves off as Seychelles lawyers/law firms. That said, members of the public should query the Registrar of the Supreme Court to ascertain whether someone is truly a Seychelles lawyer/attorney or not. The Registrar of the Supreme Court keeps a roll of attorneys (the official list of lawyers) which lists all the Attorneys-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Seychelles.

The website will also feature a news section, but this is supposed to only briefly report on any news items of interest to the legal community.

The most interesting feature announced by the BAS circular is that of an online Law Journal. The Law Journal will feature legal articles on Seychelles law and Seychelles legal history. The circular also requested for contributions to the Law Journal. Law reporting in the Seychelles legal scene is currently virtually non-existent and the BAS website, if aided by voluntary contributors, could help fill that void.

The BAS is a voluntary bar association founded in 1988. It is an association registered under the Registration of Associations Act. Its current Management Committee comprises of its Chairman: Anthony Derjacques, Secretary: Divino Sabino, Treasurer: Joel Camille and Executive Committee Members: Nichole Tirant-Gherardi, Frank Ally, Basil Hoareau, Elvis Chetty, Jude Bonte and Teresa Micock.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Proposed LPA in the (Recycle) Bin

Following from the Extra Ordinary General Meeting of the Bar Association of Seychelles and some good sense from the powers that be, the proposed Legal Practitioners Act ("LPA") which was being pushed forward by the Seychelles International Business Authority ("SIBA") has been shelved indefinitely.

The proposed LPA would have ushered in significant and also ridiculous changes to the Seychelles legal profession and environment. Amongst other things, it proposed to allow foreign qualified lawyers to practice Seychelles law and foreign qualified lawyers to practice any foreign law.

Let's hope that the proposed LPA, in its present form, never re-surfaces again.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Internet on "Seychelles Law Firms": Misleading

Many law firms overseas have already set up their websites. Profiling their firms' lawyers, areas of practice, and even biographical data on some if not all of their lawyers, some even have a mugshot of each of them. Sometimes when I am contacted by a foreign lawyer I will type their name down on google, and voila! There they are, a distinguished lawyer of some big or medium sized firm. Some of them are even on facebook, not very impressive when their profile pict shows them in some fancy costume or carrying a couple pints of lager... but oh well, lawyers are human beings after all.

However, sometimes, after I type in a lawyer's name on google, nothing relevant shows up. Of course, this does not mean that that person is a fraud or doesn't exist. It just means that there is probably nothing on the internet on that particular person. This is not a big deal, in fact, if you type in the name of the majority of Seychelles attorneys on google, nothing relevant will show up. To the best of my knowledge, as of today, only 1 Seychelles Attorney-at-Law has a website about his practice. This even though the majority of Seychelles Attorneys use emails very frequently in their line of work.

Then I wondered, where can someone go to on the internet to find a Seychelles lawyer. Then I thought, most persons overseas are probably interested in a Seychelles lawyer to advise or guide them vis a vis the offshore industry. So the first port of call should be the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA). But when I came upon their list of lawyers, I was flabbergasted, looks like their list hasn't been updated since 2003 or 2004. In their list, as of today, Jacques Hodoul, Francis MacGregor and Melchior Vidot are still attorneys-at-law! Jacques Hodoul became a Justice of Appeal of the Seychelles Court of Appeal in 2004 or 2005. Francis MacGregor became the President of the Seychelles Court of Appeal in 2007 or 2008 and Melchior Vidot became the Master and Registrar of the Supreme Court of Seychelles in 2004. To make things even odder, a certain Mr Simon Mitchell is listed as an Attorney-at-Law when he is not one {ERRATUM - Please Click Here}. Oddly enough, only his email address is provided and none of the actual attorneys' email addresses are listed.

Realising that the SIBA list is at the very least outdated and not useful, I went on google again and typed in Seychelles Lawyers. The first entry (as of today) guided me to this website:, it referred to its one-entry list as "Seychelles Lawyers, Law Firms, Attorneys".The organization that they mentioned is not a law firm. And by law firm, I mean a firm of attorneys-at-law providing legal services.

The second entry on google took me to - Seychelles own version of ebay. There was a list of lawyers here. And this list was more accurate and up to date than that of SIBA. But most of the entries were made in 2006 and the list is incomplete and some of the persons on the list are not attorneys. Also, the list ranks lawyers out of 5 stars and all the lawyers on the list have 0 stars out of 5. Primarily because the ratings are generated from user votes and no one has voted.

The third entry took me to, its tag is "Worldwide Legal Directories". I went on their Seychelles list of lawyers on Mahe (the main island in Seychelles where all lawyers are located), it had 2 entries as law firms, neither of them are in fact law firms. One of them had a contact number in the United States. I hope has a better listing for other countries.

All the other top 10 google results were more or less the same: out of date and/or not actually listing Seychelles lawyers/law firms. The 11th google result came to the website of the (old) Seychelles Legal Environment, in particular the page listing the Attorney General and the State Counsels, the list of Government lawyers of Seychelles, not the private lawyers.

I tried Seychelles Law Firm on google and got more of the same. Almost none of the websites actually featured Seychelles law firms, some of them featured Seychelles corporate service providers, but these are not law firms.

When I tried Seychelles Attorney on google I got, as the first google result, a list of attorneys from the US Department of State virtual Seychelles presence website, this list was more accurate than many, but it was sorely missing several of the most distinguished attorneys. It also states that it was last updated in March 2007, which explains why some information therein are out of date.

In the end I went to one of the big names on law firm directories: Chambers and Partners. The list of law firms therein was of course not complete, as Chambers and Partners only list the best law firms/practitioners, but at least the information therein is accurate and that it actually lists law firms/practitioners.

To conclude, the search engines are not very useful to look for Seychelles lawyers/law firm. Most websites are out of date and many list non-law firms as Seychelles law firms and non-lawyers as Seychelles attorneys. When it comes to finding Seychelles lawyers on the internet, the internet is misleading. If you are looking for a Seychelles lawyer you should try out the judiciary (through the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Seychelles) for an up to date list of attorneys as they are required by law to keep a roll of attorneys. You may also check out the Seychelles Legal Environment's list of attorneys and law firms, which is generally kept up to date and lists all legal practitioners, even government lawyers, pupils, articled clerks and public prosecutors. The aim of the Seychelles Legal Environment website is simply to educate the public and keep them informed.

It is hoped that in time, more law firms/lawyers will set up their own websites.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website ( and, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Record Turnout at Extraordinary General Meeting of the Bar Association of Seychelles

The Bar Association of Seychelles ("BAS") held an Extraordinary General Meeting ("EGM") last Friday, 29th May, at the ex-National Assembly Room at National House. The meeting saw a large turnout amongst the legal practitioners of Seychelles. The main issue discussed was a piece of legislation that has been circulated recently that seeks to drastically alter the legal profession.

The BAS management committee had called for the EGM after copies of the proposed Legal Practitioners Act ("LPA"), re-hashed and amended from an earlier version, were recently circulated by Barry Galvin, an Irish Solicitor contracted by the Government initially to draw up a report for the review of the Seychelles criminal justice system, but who has since stayed on in Seychelles. During the EGM it was revealed by primary sources that Galvin has now been mandated by the Government to push forward with the proposed LPA.

The proposed LPA seeks to revamp not just the legal profession but also the legal environment. Many of the changes which the proposed LPA seeks to implement have actually been raised by members of the Bar previously, but some of the proposals therein are unacceptable to members of the Bar and 1 proposal in particular defies logic and good sense.

In the EGM, the BAS decided to go through the key issues and sought, through debate and argument, to find a unified and common position amongst all the members of the Bar present, so that the BAS and individual members of the Bar, may lobby its views to the Government.

Foreign Qualified Lawyers to Practice Seychelles Law

The proposed LPA seeks to open up the legal profession to foreign lawyers that have qualified in recognized jurisdictions. The proposed LPA lists these recognized jurisdictions, mainly English speaking countries, most notably Ireland and Australia. The proposed LPA will allow lawyers qualified in recognized jurisdictions who have 5 years practice in their particular jurisdiction to be entitled to apply to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Seychelles to be admitted as an Attorney in Seychelles to practice Seychelles law. The Chief Justice, at his discretion, could also waive the 2 year pupilage period.

In effect, this law would allow a foreign lawyer, who has no experience in Seychelles law, to start practising Seychelles law without the need to go through pupilage. Currently, one has to obtain a qualifying law degree from a limited number of countries (e.g. UK & Mauritius), and then pass an approved vocational course (e.g. the BVC/LPC from UK), before being eligible to start their 2-year pupilage. As the Seychelles Legal System is unique, the pupilage is seen by many as a neccesary rite of passage for one to be able to come to grips with the unique laws and legal environment of Seychelles. This pupilage is even more important given that Seychelles does not have a university and so there is no place that one can actually learn Seychelles law. The 2-year pupilage period seeks to address this issue.

No other country in the world allows lawyers to simply come into their jurisdiction and then start practising the local laws without taking examinations and/or pupilage. Many members of the Bar are convinced that the people pushing for this particular issue have a personal stake and are only interested in being able to practice Seychelles law without the need to undergo the 2-year pupilage. In fact it had been revealed by several members of the Bar that a foreign law firm that is currently seeking to open an office in Seychelles is seeking to hire local lawyers. Lawyers that were interviewed stated that this big name foreign law firm wants to hire Seychelles lawyers to practice Seychelles law. It is not surprising that this big name law firm is adopting this practice because this is the norm. No self-respecting lawyer would ever want to opine upon or practice the laws of a country that they are not qualified in, even if a legal fiction like the proposed LPA is passed.

After all the issues were thrashed out it was resolved (all in favour except 1) at the EGM that the status quo be maintained and that if anyone wishes to practice the local law then they should qualify as per the current provisions of the LPA. It was also resolved (all in favour except 1) that if the Government goes ahead and tables a bill with the provisions in this area as per the proposed LPA, the BAS and other lawyers would lobby to resrict the favourable terms that the proposed LPA bestows upon foreign lawyers to qualify as Seychelles attorneys (e.g. have the list of recognized jurisdictions reviewed and to eliminate the discretion given to the Chief Justice on waiver of pupilage). It was put to vote whether anyone agreed to the form of the proposed LPA as it, no one at the EGM voted in favour, all were against except for 2 who abstained.

Foreign Lawyers to Set Up Shop in Seychelles to Practice Foreign Law

The proposed LPA also seeks to allow foreign lawyers to set up shop in Seychelles to conduct work in arbitration, consensual dispute resolution, advise upon foreign and international law and provide legal advice on Seychelles law if it is incidental to the laws that they have qualified in.

It was pointed out at the EGM that the definitions section with respect to foreign law was ill thought of as it would allow a lawyer qualified in Ukraine to come to Seychelles and start practicing Singaporean law or any other law for that matter. It was also agreed that the notion of practicing International Law was also quite ill thought of as International Law is not a jurisdiction per se. The notion that a foreign lawyer could opine on Seychelles law if it were incidental to a piece of work involving the laws that they  are qualified in was also frowned upon.

Many countries, such as Mauritius and India, have opened up their borders to allow foreign lawyers to set up shop and practice the laws of the foreign jurisdiction that they have qualified in. This is useful where a country's legal entities are heavily involved in cross border transactions. In Seychelles for example, many International Business Companies ("IBC") are involved in cross border transactions. As a result of this, lawyers qualified in other laws governing the agreement and even other parties to the agreement, have to provide their legal opinion with respect to the particular laws in the agreement that concerns them. Invariably, these agreements are governed by English law, as such, it is usually English law firms that set up at other jurisdictions so that their lawyers may opine on the parts of an agreement that is governed by English law. Having the presence of the foreign law firms generally reduces costs to the client.

All of the members of the Bar present at the EGM were in favour of allowing foreign lawyers and law firms to set up shop in Seychelles. It was therefore resolved that foreign lawyers and law firms be allowed to set up shop in Seychelles to practice the laws that they have qualified in only. It was also unanimously resolved that should any foreign lawyer partner with a local lawyer then that foreign lawyer may only practice the laws that they have qualified in.

Composition of the Law Society

The proposed LPA seeks to create a Law Society that would regulate and discipline members of the legal profession. The members of the Bar were in favour of the creation of a statutory body. But members of the Bar expressed concern that the proposed LPA seeks to have a 7-man board of which the Government controls or at least appears to control 4 members. Under the proposed LPA the board would consist of the Attorney General and 3 members nominated by the Minister of Finance. 2 members would be the President of the Society and its Vice-President and 1 other member would be a legal practitioner.

Members of the Bar expressed discontent at how the proposed LPA seeks to have the Government have greater control over the legal professionals and that this would hurt the independence of the Bar. Furthermore, as most of the members of the Bar are academically qualified Barristers of England and Wales, it would be more appropriate for the Law Society to instead be called the Bar Council. It was also noted that the legal domain was generally under the mandate of the Minister of Internal Affairs, presently a department subordinate to the Vice-President and so it is quite odd that the Minister of Finance has been given this power in the proposed LPA.

It was unanimously resolved at the EGM that a Law Society/Bar Council be entirely composed of members of the Bar elected to such positions by members of the Bar only.

Code of Conduct

Presently, there is no code of conduct/ethics that governs Seychelles attorneys. It was resolved that the Management Committee of the BAS draft a Code of Conduct. It was hoped that the Code of Conduct would be circulated to members of the Bar for comments before being submitted to the Government/Chief Justice for implementation as a secondary law.

Indemnity Insurance and Immunity

Presently, there is no requirement for attorneys to have indemnity insurance cover. It was argued that this would be very expensive and would lead to lawyers passing on their costs to clients. It was resolved that indemnity insurance not be compulsory to obtain the legal practitioners licence. It was also resolved that the immunity afforded to lawyers remain as is. Presently, lawyers are immune from suits for any conduct or work done in court or incidental to court work.

Towards the end of the meeting, several lawyers hoped that the Government would consult the members of the Bar on issues that affect them and that the Government consider input from the Bar in drafting the proposed LPA amongst other things.

The BAS promised to lobby the Government with respect to the resolutions made.

The BAS is a voluntary association whose mandate is to promote the interests of the members of the Bar. The Management Committee of the BAS for the year 2009 are: Anthony Derjacques (Chairman), Divino Sabino (Secretary), Joel Camille (Treasurer), Nichole Tirant-Gherardi, Frank Ally, Basil Hoareau, Elvis Chetty, Teresa Micock and Jude Bonte.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website ( and its new site which is under construction at, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Foreign Lawyers in Seychelles

There has been a lot of talk within the legal community of the Government's plans to open up the Seychelles legal profession to foreign lawyers. The Government has stated that there is pressure from the WTO for them to open up the legal profession to foreign lawyers. A proposed Legal Practitioners' Act (the "Proposed LPA") has been circulated and is drawing great criticism from all fronts.

Amongst other things, the Proposed LPA seeks to open up what is deemed 'international business law' to foreign lawyers. Foreign lawyers, without the need to undergo pupillage, can then set up shop in Seychelles and practice Seychelles law, but within the confines of this 'international business law'.

Push comes to shove, what the Proposed LPA does is allowing persons, unskilled and unqualified in Seychelles law, to practice within an area of Seychelles law. This is ridiculous. What makes this worse is that the people trying to push this matter forward (which are not the WTO people) do not even understand the difference between Seychelles law and the law of another jurisdiction.

Perhaps the layman does not comprehend what the critical issue is, so let me give you an analogy. Let's say that a Seychelles lawyer is a human medical doctor and a foreign lawyer is a vet. The Proposed LPA will basically allow a vet to operate on a human being! This is contrary to good sense. What human being would want to be operated on by a vet? What would the international community say if they found out that Seychelles will allow vets to operate on human beings? In the same vein, what will the international investors say when they find out that the Proposed LPA will allow foreign lawyers to practice Seychelles law?

The People pushing for the Proposed LPA argue that many other countries have opened up their borders for foreign lawyers. But these countries have opened up their borders for foreign lawyers to practice foreign law, not the national law. To go back to our doctor v/s vet analogy, what has happened in other countries is that they have allowed the vets to come into their country to practice on dogs, cats and rats, not human beings. The people pushing for the Proposed LPA always fails to mention the above. Probably because they don't understand the distinction.

Most Seychelles lawyers are not against foreign lawyers setting up shop in Seychelles to practice the laws of the jurisdiction that they have qualified in, but to suggest that they practice Seychelles law, be it only within a particular area or otherwise, is ridiculous and unacceptable.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bar Association of Seychelles elects new Committee

The Bar Association of Seychelles (BAS) held its Annual General Meeting on the 3rd February 2009 at the premises of the Supreme Court of Seychelles.

A new BAS committee was elected. Anthony Derjacques has been appointed as the new Chairman, he replaces Nicole Tirant-Gherardi. Divino Sabino and Joel Camille were respectively elected as the new Secretary and Treasurer.

The new Chairman vowed to strive to protect and further the interests of the BAS members and to protect the profession.

Some of the matters discussed were the true reasons for the delays in the conclusion of court cases, funding for the BAS, human rights and the constitution, the state of the judiciary, the setting up of a BAS website and the holding of the BAS dinner to award the more distinguished Attorney(s) with the Senior Counsel (SC) title, the Seychelles equivalent to the UK's Queen's Counsel (QC). At present there are only two SC's, these are Pesi Pardiwalla, SC and Ramniklal Valabhji, SC.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.