Address by Chief Justice Hon. Justice Kamal Kumar at the Workshop for Commissioners for Oaths on 23 December 2021
It’s a pleasure to be the first one to thank you and congratulate you for being sworn in as Commissioner for Oaths. I extend a warm welcome to all the relatives and guests of the new Commissioner for Oaths who are present here today.
You as Commissioner for Oaths now play a vital role in our legal system and that is not to be taken lightly. As Commissioner for Oaths you will witness:
- Affidavits: which will be used in Courts as evidence or dealings in land matters;
- Statutory Declarations: which will be used to obtain certain legal documents like passports.
It is important to our democracy that people have confidence in fairness and efficiency of our legal system. You now play a role as Commissioner for Oaths in helping towards maintenance of that confidence.
It is also very encouraging to note your commitment and willingness to provide voluntary service to our community. I understand that now the Judicial Department pays Commissioner for Oaths $517.38 and provides you with stamps and set of Holy Books on your appointment and thereafter $500 per year to cover incidental costs. Apart from this you are not to take any money from the people you serve as Commissioner for Oaths.
You being selected as Commissioner for Oaths indicates that the Department has considered you to be a person with integrity and dignity who commands respect in their community.
You may not get the rewards for voluntary service you provide here but you will be rewarded where it matters most.
Legal Practitioners are deemed Commissioner for Oaths as soon as they get admitted as Legal Practitioners.
One of the main reason for appointing non-legal persons like you as Commissioner for Oaths is that people sometimes find it difficult to have their signatures to Affidavits, and declarations witnessed by Legal Practitioners because the Legal Practitioners are committed in Court or elsewhere.
So, please make yourself accessible to members of the community when they require you to witness their signature. It has been brought to attention of our office that in certain instance members of public are turned away for no good reason.
As stated earlier your action reflects on the whole legal system and as such you are required to act professionally, diligently and with care.
Some dos and dont’s which I wish to share are:
- Do not let your political affiliation and commitment interfere with performance of your duty as Commissioner for Oaths;
- Do not certify the truth of the content of the Affidavits/Declaration as they remain the responsibility of person signing the Affidavits or Declarations;
- Do not take money for witnessing signature to Affidavits or Declarations irrespective of the size of the Affidavit/Declaration;
- Ensure that any comments you post on social media is not considered as immoral;
- You have to possess a good character and standing in the community;
- Verify the identity of the person with valid identification cards or passports;
- Administer Oaths properly and have regard to the holy book the person intends to take oath on;
- Do not force person to take Oath if they choose not to do so, in which case they can affirm and you have to ensure that the attestation clause reflects that the person affirmed;
- Keep a record of the documents you witnessed with details of person’s name, address and ID.
I am told that some of the reasons, the appointment of Commissioner for Oaths was revoked or not renewed are that they charged fees for witnessing document, asked for favours, disclosed confidential information and for failure to update log book for services provided.
I urge you to attend workshops organised to train Commissioners for Oaths because in those workshops you are trained by very able presenters as to how you provide service to members of the community and help you to improve on what you had been doing.
Thank you for standing up to provide voluntary service to the people of Fiji. I share what someone has rightly said in that ‘Volunteers like you don’t want to be thanked for helping others but thank others for giving them a chance to help them.’
Please do not forget the Oath you took on the Holy Book and that is to well and truly serve the people of Fiji in the office of Commissioner for Oaths. You will do right to all manner of people in accordance with law without favour, affection or ill-will.
With those words, I congratulate you all for being appointed Commissioners for Oaths and look forward to your assistance and commitment in providing valuable service to our Country.
May God bless you all.