Despite rulings by both the Supreme and Appeal Courts in favour of enacting the Judicial Review Act (JRA), Attorney General Basil Williams, has instead opted to hold consultations on the implementing the Act.
In a statement released on Sunday, Williams referred to arguments surrounding the issues of enforcement of the JRA as nothing but “misleading.”
The JRA which was passed in Parliament in 2010 makes provision for citizens to challenge actions of public authorities on the grounds that their actions are unlawful, illegal, and capricious, contrary to some written law, ultra vires or violate the rules of natural justice.
Under the Act, the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs is empowered to issue the publication of an order signed by him in the Official Gazette to bring Judicial Review into operation.
Williams has however been accused of pussyfooting on the issue. His failure to act has resulted in court action being brought against him by Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall.
Nandlall had noted the importance of the Act in Public law and its necessity as it relates to the existence of the new Civil Procedure Rules.
However, in a statement over the weekend, the AG contended that there were no stipulations that the JRA is by any means contingent on the existence of the Civil Procedure Rules. Section 3(1) of the Act provides that an application for judicial review shall be made “in accordance with this and with rules of court”.
“The Rules referred to in the Act are the rules that were, at the time, in force and did not expressly or implied refer to any rules of court to be made as alleged by the PPP/C and their allies.”
However, so far, both the High Court and Appeal Court have agreed with Nandlall’s contentions and have dispensed decisions towards the enactment of the JRA.
In her ruling Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George had ordered the AG to make the act operational by July 31.
The AG moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision and stay the order. His application for a stay of the order was thrown out last week, leaving him with no other choice than to bring the Act into operation.
Nandlall has already threatened further legal action against Williams – contempt of court proceedings – if he continues to refuse to bring the Act into operation.
Williams has nonetheless announced that the Ministry of Legal Affairs intends to follow best practice and consult with stakeholders before the implementation of the JRA, despite the rulings.
“These consultations will ensure that improvements and amendments be made to cure existing lacunas in the current Judicial Review Act and to bring it in line with established regional and international best practices such as those highlighted by the CCJ noted in the recent case of The Medical Council of Guyana-v-Jose Ocampo Trueba,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders have nonetheless already expressed their views on the matter. Following the ruling of the High Court, the Bar Association of Guyana, (GBA) released a statement highlighting the importance of implementing the JRA.
In a statement, the GBA noted that the implementation of the Act fills a gap in the new Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) launched in 2017.
“It is importance to good public administration in a democratic society, allowing citizens ample remedies against the State and leveling the playing field. Several procedural remedies for the CPR are contained in the Judicial Review Act.
“In a case where a public officer/authority is challenged, the Judicial Review Act and the CPR are both necessities.”
Further outlining their concerns, the Bar Council noted that the issue of the implementation of the Act was previously raised with Williams.
The Council said that issue was raised at a meeting with the Attorney General on July 22, 2017 and by way of letter dated November 15, 2017, requesting the urgent implementation of the Judicial Review Act.
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