Lawyers involved in the appeal case in relation to the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, (GECOM), are arguing over whether the matter should be afforded an early hearing.
The Appeal Court began hearing the application for early determination of the matter yesterday.
The matter was filed by executive member of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Zulfikar Mustapha.
The PPP/C has been pushing for an early hearing of the appeal of the High Court decision, which upheld President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of 84-year-old Justice (r’td) James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM.
The decision was handed down by Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George.
In the application before the Appeal Court, the party member raised concern as it relates to the timeframe in which the matter should be heard.
Yesterday, Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall, who is leading the legal team, which is asking the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court ruling over the appointment of GECOM Chairman, argued that the case is perhaps the most important case in the court system, at present.
Nandlall noted that the matter involves the right of every registered elector.
“It raises issues which affect the very bedrock of our constitutional democracy and it is directly related to the integrity of our electoral machinery.”
He pointed to the fact that Local Government Elections are due in November and Regional and General Elections are due by August 2020.
He said, too, that whatever decision the Court of Appeal makes in the appeal itself, it is likely to be appealed at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
“Therefore, it is imperative that the appeal before the Court of Appeal be determined in such a time frame that an appeal can be heard by the CCJ and decision rendered before the elections, otherwise the entire litigation would become futile.”
The lawyer therefore invited the Court of Appeal to emulate the position adopted by the CCJ, which heard and determined a challenge by an elector before the recently concluded Barbadian elections.
“The entire case, beginning from the High Court of Barbados to the CCJ, lasted a few weeks. In the end, the case was concluded at such time permitting the elector to vote at the elections.”
Against this backdrop, Nandlall expressed the view that the Attorney General (AG) should not be opposed to the application, which is merely to have the Appeal heard early.
Attorney General, Basil Williams, however contended that a request for the Court of Appeal to urgently hear an appeal over the appointment would amount to a challenge to the validity of the Local Government Elections scheduled for November 12.
In his submissions, the AG noted that the Court, with scarce resources, is burdened with a number of appeals.
Attorney General Williams contended that it is therefore imperative that the applicant (Mustapha) establishes the urgency to warrant a grant of his application for his matter to be heard before other appeals.
He said, too, that the appellant/applicant must establish that his appeal has reasonable prospect of success and exceptional circumstances to cause the court to exercise its discretion to reduce the time in his favour.”
The AG argued further that there are numerous precedents to support his contention that a challenge such as this one has the effect of challenging the validity of the elections, which could only be done by way of an elections petition.
The case will continue at the Court of Appeal at 10:00 am on July 27.
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