Aug 21, 2020 News
– decision to be appealed
In spite of a request for adjournment by lawyers involved in the case filed to challenge the sale of prime lands along the East Coast Demerara, High Court Justice Sandra Kurtzious handed down a decision yesterday afternoon in which she dismissed an application by Kaieteur News Publisher, Glenn Lall to quash the transactions.
Lall moved to court last July to have the sale of 130 acres of lands on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) by A Partnership For National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government quashed following revelations of a massive sale of prime property by the then de facto administration.
The case which lists former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, (NICIL) and the Attorney General as respondents, is yet to receive a response from Jordan.
NICIL, on the other hand, has through its lawyer, Devindra Kissoon, presented arguments for the case to be discharged.
The court was scheduled to provide a ruling on those contentions yesterday.
However an email from both Kissoon and Sanjeev Datadin, the attorney representing Lall, was sent to the Judge on Wednesday evening informing her that newly appointed board at NICIL was requesting a two weeks adjournment of decision from the Court to review the transactions.
Before rendering decision, Justice Kurtzious noted that though she was in receipt of the email she would not entertain the request for an adjournment at this time, since any decision of the Court will not impact on NICIL’s decision to review the transaction. The ruling is nonetheless set to be appealed by Datadin who had vehemently opposed the NICIL’s application to dismiss the case.
At the interim, the Judge based her decision to dismiss Lall’s case on three main issues. Among them, she accepted the view by NICIL’S lawyer that the company has the power to privatize in accordance with Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act.
The Judge held too that, that power to transfer “should be taken in its literal sense –Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act empowers the Minister to do just that which he has done.”
Further, the Judge found that that Lall had no locus standi (legal standing) to institute the proceedings and no standing to prosecute the claim since among other things, he failed to comply with Part 56.02 of the Civil Procedure Rules which outlines prior to the filing of the claim, that is, when issuing a proceeding for administrative orders, the applicant must file a notice of claim for the administrative orders.
Additionally, the Judge found that too that Lall was in default of correcting the defect by seeking relief from sanctions as stipulated under the Civil Procedure Rules.
In view of the findings, the Judge dismissed the case against all parties and awarded costs in the sum of 300,000 — $100,000 be paid to each respondent.
The case over the massive land deal was filed after the vesting orders, bearing Jordan’s signature, were posted on Facebook immediately raising questions as to how so many acres of land were sold in a day and also mounting suspicions that the then Coalition government was giving away lands before demitting office.
Elections were held on March 2nd.
The information pointed to publications of the Official Gazette of orders numbered No. 64, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 and 73.
Lall’s application asked the court to overturn the sale on the grounds that the sale was unlawful, made without legal authority, ultra vires, malicious, made in excess of jurisdiction, made without adequate legal consideration, null void and of no legal effect.
He referred to Sections 8 and 11 of the PCA, which stipulates that the Minister of Finance is empowered to authorize the transfer of state properties from only entities of the state. The PCA and its provisions of vesting order in general are not intended to apply to private companies.
Citing specific sections of the PCA, Lall contended that the Minister cannot transfer property owned by NICIL to any private individual.
He noted that all of the entities to which the lands were sold are private companies and that the PCA and its provisions of vesting orders in general are not applicable to private companies which meant that the purported transfer by Jordan was unlawful, ultra vires and null and void.
Lall contended too that “The essential and key precondition of the statue is that it applies to property of State being transferred to an entity under the control of the Minister, there is no authority to vest the specific State to these companies as mentioned in Orders published in the Official Gazette.”
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