– As CCJ publishes decisions in minutes
In 2009, the Guyana Parliament passed legislation making it compulsory for judges to deliver their written or oral decisions within 120 days after the conclusion of the matters.
The legislation was introduced to give judges a prescribed timeline for delivery of decisions, in wake of a culture of delay which has hampered the effectiveness of the Judiciary.
For too long, there had been complaints of delays.
The Judicial Time Limit Act of 2009 made provision for inter alia, penalty for judges who continuously breach the law; of which the ultimate sanction is removal from office.
However, this was not enough to motivate some high-ranking members of the judiciary to deliver their decisions on time. Some have retired and others promoted to senior positions without handing down their decisions.
This publication has learnt that this has resulted in hundreds of court cases languishing in the judiciary without a decision either orally or in written form.
The failure by both Justices of the High Court and the Court of Appeal to give judgments on time has significantly hindered the delivery of the course of justice as well as the efficacy the judiciary, especially when compared to other courts in the region, particularly the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which publishes its judgments on its website within minutes after matters are concluded.
In recent years, the local judiciary has drawn criticisms from the CCJ for the lengthy delays in delivering judgments and for clearly contravening the Time Limit for Decisions Act 2009.
Attorney-at-law, Sanjeev Datadin, explained the impact of the failure by the courts to render decisions on time.
He said that in many cases, the Judicial Time Limit Act is honoured in the breach.
Datadin said that: “The rules are more often broken than observed.”
The lawyer stressed that particularly the impact of not writing a judgment is severe on the outcome of a case.
“If a judge fails to provide a written judgment in a case and there is no record of the decision, it can prove to be extremely problematic if/when there is consideration for an appeal,” Datadin added.
He explained that the written decision was essential to the records of appeal.
“In the absence of that important piece of information, the matter cannot be properly considered for an appeal.”
Moreover, he stressed the case is likely to be stalled because it cannot be appealed.
The lawyer stressed that this frustrates the course of justice and put undue pressure on the judiciary.
“…because here we have it that litigants spend their time and money on matters that will not get a fair treatment in the justice system,” he said
The lawyer also pointed to instances where matters were stalled after a judge had retired without writing their judgments and had even been elevated to a senior position without providing their decisions.
“This has clearly resulted in undue pressure on the judiciary since in those circumstances, it is either the matter has to start all over again after reassigned to another judge who already has his/her quota of work to complete,” he explained.
The Judicial Time Limit Act of 2009 prescribes that inter alia “a judge who presides at the trial of a civil case shall give a written or oral decision and reason for the decision at the conclusion of the hearing of the case or as soon as possible after the conclusion of the hearing but not later than one hundred and twenty days (approximately four months) from the date of the conclusion of the hearing.”
Amongst the recommendations under the law is a mechanism for a penalty to be imposed when judges persistently fail to do so.
The penalty recommended was the ultimate sanction of removal from office.
This mechanism was codified and incorporated as part of Article 197 (3) of the Constitution.
It reads that: “A judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for mis-behaviour or for persistently not writing decisions or for continuously failing to give decisions and reasons therefore within such time as may be specified by Parliament and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this article.”
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