By Zena Henry
The issue of jurisdiction raised by Attorney General Anil Nandlall will be decided upon come November 11, when the appeal case against the dismissal of Opposition Leader David Granger as a respondent in the 2012 budget cut case returns to the Full Court.
Chief Justice (CJ) Ian Chang removed Granger, as well as Finance Minister Ashni Singh from the budget cut case stating that as Parliamentary members, they are legally provided with immunity. The Opposition Leader has since
chosen to surrender his immunity and appeal the Chief Justice’s decision, since according to his lawyers, the initial issue of cutting the 2012 budget was a “democratic parliamentary decision,” that occurred while Granger was the Leader of the Opposition.
Nandlall has argued, however, that the Full Court is not the place where the Opposition Leader should seek redress since the CJ’s decision is final and the appeal should be made to the Appeals Court. This argument thus raised the question as to whether the Full Court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal. Even before the appeal case begins, jurisdiction has to be determined, which depends on whether the CJ’s decision was final or interlocutory.
When the matter commenced at the High Court before Justices Rishi Persuad and James Bovell-Drakes on Tuesday, the AG presented his submission that the Chief Justice’s decision was final. He however presented no authorities on the matter.
Attorney –at–law Basil Williams has on the other hand argued in a written submission to the court that the CJ’s ruling is interlocutory, and a dismissal cannot be a final decision. Williams referred the court to the Supreme Court Practice (1999 edition) which speaks to the state of a decision. The document states that judgments and orders to be treated as interlocutory are orders for or relating to the striking out of parties.
Williams also presented several legal authorities to speak on the issue of a court’s jurisdiction and the grounds for a matter to be heard at the different judicial levels. He further pointed out that the Court of Appeal in the case of Dhajoo-vs-Thom (1939) embraced a decision that every court must justify itself; that as a matter of jurisdiction it can properly hear and determine a matter.
The answer to that question depends upon whether the order by the Chief Justice was final or interlocutory, Williams charged. He went on to state that according to Section 79 of the High Court Act, an appeal will go to the Full Court from any judgment or order made by a single judge.
Section 6(2) of the Court of Appeal Act Cap: 3:01 also provides that, “… an appeal shall lie to the Court of Appeal in any cause from any order of the Full Court…”
Williams’s written submission of some 12 authorities was later handed over to the court and the Attorney General, who is the respondent in the matter.
As it relates to the ongoing budget cut case, the Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman is the remaining respondent. Although he too has immunity, like the Opposition Leader and the Finance Minister, the Attorney General has argued that the Speaker was the one to open the door for talks and subsequent cutting of the budget. It was further argued that the Speaker’s decision to do so was against Parliament’s Standing Orders.
In 2012, the Opposition cut the budget estimated by the Finance Minister. This prompted the government to head to the court where an initial ruling by the Chief Justice stated that the National Assembly could not cut the budget. Monies allocated by the Finance Minister were once again cut from the budget in 2013 and the government returned to the High Court.
Basil Williams, Llewellyn John, Joseph Harmon and Deborah Backer; who are also representing Granger, have argued that to remove the Opposition Leader from the budget case is unfair. They believe that the one responsible for cutting the budget should be allowed in the hearing to represent their interest.
Williams has argued continuously, “How can the government be heard and not the Opposition?”
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