In the face of accusations of non- compliance in relation to a Court order, Attorney General,( AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams has asked the Court to strike out contempt proceedings against him.
Attorney -at -law Anil Nandlall had filed contempt proceeding against the AG for failing to operationsalise the Judicial Review Act,(JRA) in keeping with a Court order issued by Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George, earlier this year.
The JRA is an area of public law which is designed to specifically assist members of the public in challenging acts committed against them by State officials including Government Ministers.
The Act was passed in 2010 but was scheduled to be enacted after the new High Court rules /Civil Procedure Rules, (CPR) were in place. The new High Court rules came into being in 2017 and the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams was tasked with bringing the Act into effect by publishing an order signed by him in the Official Gazette.
However, Williams has been accused of pussyfooting on the matter.
In May, the Chief Justice, (CJ) issued an order for Minister Williams to operationalise the Act on July 31, but Williams sought to challenge and stay the order of the CJ by filing motions of Appeal.
Following a ruling by the Appeal Court in favour of bringing the act into operation, information was issued in the official gazette purportedly to bring the JRA into force. However the date of commencement was not in keeping with CJ’s order.
Instead, the information published in the official Gazette noted that the JRA will commence on January 1, 2019.
.In his motion to strike out the contempt proceedings against him, Williams sought to explain that there was a mix up of the information between lawyers of the State.
He essentially claimed that since the Appeal Court had refused to grant the stay on August 9, 2018—which relatively a week after the Chief Justice said the JRA should be enacted; the Principal Parliamentary Counsel had reasoned that since July 31, 2018 had already passed, a new date “within reasonable time” should have been set.
As such, Williams claimed that January 1 date was set and published in the official gazette. He noted nonetheless that it was later clarified that the refusal to grant the interim stay meant that the commencement order should have been issued on July 31, 2018. Hence the new commencement order for July 31 was issued.
The AG therefore asked that contempt proceedings filed against him be struck out on the grounds that it will constitute an abuse of the court process since he has already complied with the court order. Nandlall, an Executive member of the PPP and a former AG, has filed a contempt of court motion against the Minister.
In his application, Nandlall has requested an order of the Court committing the Attorney General to Georgetown Prisons, Camp Street, Georgetown for such period and terms and conditions for failing to bring the Judicial Review Act into force on or before the 31st day of July, 2018, as ordered by Chief Justice George.
The hearing of the contempt proceedings is scheduled to come up on September 14, 2018 at 09:00hrs before Justice Navindra Singh in the High Court.
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