…as Chancellor decides to review High Court rules four years later
In a tit-for-tat that has seemingly exposed the indifference which obtains in the legal and legislative sector, Attorney
General Anil Nandlall has accused Attorney-at-Law, Christopher Ram, of being unaware of what obtains when he accused him of deliberately not bringing into force the Judicial Review Act.
Ram asserted that Nandlall’s Permanent Secretary, Indira Anandjit, had in defence of the Attorney General suggested that the High Court rules were yet to be completed, a notion debunked by Ram as a fallacy, since they were laid in the House in November 2010.
In a twist of events, this publication has been reliably informed that Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, yesterday wrote to President of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), Ronald Burch-Smith, informing him that the rules which were laid in the House in 2010 had to be revised because of omissions and errors.
A point to note is that the missive from Justice Singh to the Bar Association President comes days after Anandjit sought to defend Nandlall’s position.
Ram is of the opinion that by not bringing the Judicial Review Act into force, “what Mr. Nandlall is effectively doing is frustrating the decision of the Parliament by his failure to bring the Act into operation.”
Ram posited that a delay of four years is clearly intolerable and falls down on his predecessor Charles Ramson’s promise “to bring the judicial process into the 21st century.”
It should be noted, too, that the Chancellor, in 2010, spoke glowingly of the completion of the rules which now have to be revisited.
The US$10M Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded Modernization of Justice Administration System Programme was at the time being executed in two components – the High Court and the Ministry of Legal Affairs – headed by Justice Singh and then Minister of Legal Affairs Charles Ramson SC respectively.
According to Nandlall’s Permanent Secretary, on Wednesday last, “a simple reading of the Act would have saved Mr. Ram much public embarrassment. Section 3(1) of the Act provides: 1. “An application to the court for relief against an administrative Act or omission shall be made by way of an application for judicial review in accordance with this act and with Rules of Court.”
Anandjit contended that it is either that Ram has not read this section or, he did so but did not understand what it means or, worse yet, is shockingly unaware that the Rules of Court currently in force do not provide a procedure for an application for judicial review.
According to the Permanent Secretary, the procedure for same is contained in the new Rules of Court which are in draft and as a result, the Act therefore, cannot be brought into operation without the promulgation of the new Rules of Court and that is a responsibility which does not reside with the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
Ram had fired back, citing Nandlall’s ignorance of his sector, and pointing out that the High Court Rules have been tabled in the National Assembly, since November 18, 2010.
Justice Singh, coincidentally, one day later advised the Bar Association that the rules had to be revised.
Ram, the previous day had even posited that even if the Rules were still in draft, Nandlall compounded his poor knowledge by attempting to hoodwink the public into believing that the Judicial Review Act can only be brought into force when the entire body of new Rules of Court is promulgated.
Ram used the opportunity to point out that there are several recent precedents for the making of subsidiary rules or legislation for specific legal purposes. He pointed to the rules establishing the Commercial Court and setting out the procedures for the operation of that Court.
Ram spoke, too, of the Practice Direction Rule establishing the Constitutional Division of the High Court and the Family (Proceedings and Procedures) Rules 2012, comprising 130 pages. He questioned whether “Nandlall or his alter ego, Permanent Secretary Indira Anandjit, may wish to explain honestly why more than two years after the publication of the Family (Proceedings and Procedures) Rules, and even longer after the completion of the building to house the Family Court, that Court has still not been established”.
According to Ram, it is not that Nandlall thinks it is easier to bring up Rules of 130 pages than it is of Rules of three pages; it is that he is afraid to bring the Judicial Review Act of 2010 into being because it would facilitate legal challenges to the Executive’s excesses and breaches of administrative law.
Ram suggested that with the coming into force of the Act, it would give to the High Court the power to grant aggrieved citizens injunctions and declarations more easily than are available under the current Rules.
“In my view Mr. Nandlall has taken the administration of justice to its nadir, demonstrating all at one time cowardice, ignorance and dishonesty. I truly hope for the sake of this country that it does not get worse, although with Mr. Nandlall and Anandjit I am not confident.”
Ram emphasized that having been laid in the National Assembly, the Rules were ready to become operational on the date of publication in the Gazette, or some later date provided.
“Nandlall as Minister of Legal Affairs has executive responsibility for the administration of justice and it is in him, and him alone, vested the power and the duty to bring the Judicial Review Act into operation.”
He said that “to simply and conveniently blame others from a position of ignorance only emphasises how craven his cowardice is”.
“Under the High Court Act, the Attorney General, or his appointee, is a member of the Rules Committee, which he appears not to know…I must ask, is Nandlall for real?”
It was Anandjit who publicly responded to Ram on behalf of Nandlall and according to Ram, it was predictable that Nandlall would “shelter under the coattails of his Permanent Secretary, Anandjit, from which to throw pebbles at me”.
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