For Guyana‘s justice system to be more efficient and effective in its cause, a number of administrative deficiencies must be addressed, Attorney-at-law, Sanjeev Datadin has said.
The prominent lawyer shared insight on the operations of the Court during an inaugural airing of Kaieteur Radio’s recent talk series “The Legal Mind.”
The show, which aired on Tuesday last was hosted by social scientist and Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon.
During the live streamed interaction, Datadin shared his views on systematic shortcomings, which he says continue to hinder the pace of justice, particularly at the level of the Appeal Court.
According to Datadin, there are several cases that are languishing in the Court because the records of Court, including the written decisions, are not readily available.
“In the majority of cases, in my experience, the record is not being completed because those two critical pieces of documents are usually missing.”
Datadin also said the Court itself is often in breach of the statutory provisions of handing down decisions.
In reference to the 2009 law, which gives Judges 120 days to have their decisions ready, Datadin noted that in most cases,” the Court is not handing down decisions within the statutory period.”
“There was an Act to say that the Court should give its judgment, its written reasons within a certain time and that’s not happening.
So the reason why these appeals are not being heard is because we can’t get the record of appeal completed.
That just stymies the judicial system because in many cases so many years go by, before you can get an actual hearing of Appeal and the issues that are concerned are probably not even relevant anyone because they have been overtaken by time,” the attorney said.
He noted that one prime example is the 2015 elections petition, filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The election petition had challenged the validity of the results of Guyana’s last regional and general elections.
According to Datadin, the 2015 case has faced a number of preliminary challenges.
He explained that the petition has not even heard in the High Court.
“There was a preliminary application to strike the matter, then there was ruling from then Chief Justice Chang and that ruling has been at appeal.
“[However] the Court of Appeal is yet to look at the case and make a determination on the interim application. So that matter is still pending.
“And if we are to look at it, given that it has been pending in the Court of Appeal all this time for interim reason, then the substance of the case may never be heard,” the Attorney said.
He nonetheless conceded that there have been efforts by the judiciary to fix the problems and expedite predominantly civil matters.
Datadin alluded to the implementation of the 2017 Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) via which he says the delivery of justice has improved.
“The CPR has improved the system tremendously. Matters are being heard a lot quicker now under the new rules, judgments are a lot more readily forthcoming.”
Yet the Attorney emphasised that the Court warrants effective and independent referees.
“I mean, the problems don’t squarely lie on the shoulders of the officers. The judges and attorneys would take some blame for what goes on, but a lot of it has to come down to how the court system is administered in a country.”
“You have to give the necessary tools and facilities and you must have the necessary support staff; you must have proper courtrooms; you must have devices that will produce transcripts by the end of the day for judges to be efficient. We just now started this, so the judges are not entirely at fault.
“Both the judges and lawyers have a role to play, but the role they play is within a court system but that must be efficient; not when there is blackout you can’t get anything at the [Court] Registry, the courtrooms are dark.
“The Magistrates courts are a nightmare…So you can’t really blame the officials (the judges or magistrates) because they are trying, but they don’t have the tools to do effectively what they need to do,” the lawyer added.
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