Dec 01, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – Lawyers involved in the 2020 election petition case are now arguing over a request made to remove former presidential candidate of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition, David Granger, from actively participating in the matter.
The case which challenges the outcome of the March 2, 2020 Regional and General Elections continued before Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire yesterday with arguments over Granger’s role in the matter in light of a challenge by Attorney General (AG), Anil Nandlall S.C, to have the entire election petition struck out.
AG Nandlall, in his capacity as the state‘s legal representative in the case, has presented notice of application to strike out the election petition on the ground that the petitioners failed to serve Granger – the second named respondent – within the time prescribed by law for service.
The AG had stressed that the failure to serve with affidavits in Petition 99 of 2020 is an absolute ground to strike out the matter.
However, attorney for one of the petitioners, Mayo Robertson, submitted that given the circumstances, Granger should not be considered a necessary or proper respondent. He wants Granger removed from the list of respondents.In addition, last Thursday, Granger’s lawyer, Basil Williams, S.C, filed a notice not to oppose the elections petition — a move, which is being interpreted by lawyers for the ruling People‘s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) as an attempt by Granger and his team to invalidate their application to strike out the election case.
Yesterday, lead attorney for Bharat Jagdeo, in his role as the leader of the PPP/C, the Trinidad –based, Douglas Mendes S.C, presented arguments to support the view that Granger’s notice not to oppose the election petition should not negate him as a respondent.
“Any of the other respondents have that right to file a notice not to oppose this elections petition,” Mendes said adding that the law provides for such steps to be taken but it does not negate any person who files such notices from the proceeding as not a proper respondent.Citing specific sections of the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act, Mendes said that the law makes provisions for respondents to give notice not to oppose.
“Section 27(1) (a) of the Act states, “that if before the trial of an elections a respondent other than the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) gives the prescribed motive that he does not intend to oppose the petition… the Registrar shall give notice thereof in the prescribed manner …”
Part Two (2) of the section further notes that, “a respondent who has given the prescribed notice that he does not intend to oppose the petition, or for whom any person has been substituted, shall not be allowed to appear or act as a party against the petition in any proceedings thereon,” the lawyer said, adding that by seeking this relief Granger is in essence accepting that he is indeed a proper respondent in the case.
Granger is proper
Further, the lawyer argued that Granger is a proper party; since the petition concerns him and the party he leads and could result in a loss of their 31 seats in the National Assembly.
Added to this, Mendes said that should the court favour his argument that Granger is a necessary and proper respondent, then the issue of late service must be examined.
In this regard, Mendes referenced the dates in which Granger was served with the affidavits for Petition number 99 of 2020.
According to the lawyer, the evidence, which included a signed document by Granger himself, acknowledging receipt shows that the documents were not served within the legally prescribed period.
“The petitioner is arguing that the document was prepared on September 18 but all the other documents including one which Granger himself signed shows that it was served on September 25,” the lawyer pointed out.
“Your honour, you raised the question of service on the 22nd of October. It should have been apparent to everyone why you were raising it, because it was out of time. One would have expected that if an error was made in the affidavit, either you would have been told right away that there is an error and they would correct it and within a very short period of time affidavits would have been filed correcting the issue of service.” Mendes said.
Additionally, Mendes said that the explanation does not add up. “Perhaps, Mr. Robertson could explain to the Court why this is so or what actually happened here,” Mendes asserted concluding that service within time is yet to be proven and as such, the Court should dismiss the petition.
AG Nandlall followed with a similar line of argument. He too cited the provisions of the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Rule Cap1:04.
Nandlall noted the fact that Section 27 (2) of the Validity of Elections Act states “A respondent who has given the prescribed notice that he does not intend to oppose the petition or for whom any person has been substituted shall not be allowed to appear or act as a party against the petition in any proceedings thereon.”
“A respondent, your honour, must mean a properly named respondent. Therefore, by filing that notice to say he is not opposing that petition, Mr. Granger has implicitly or rather, expressly accepted that he is a properly named respondent. That is what the section gives him the power to do,” Nandlall argued.
He continued that, “Any of the named respondents, including Bharrat Jagdeo or anyone else, have an option in the law to choose not to oppose the petition. And Mr. Granger has exercised that option. Mr. Granger cannot contend that he is not a proper party in the petition and then use a mechanism in the act that is directed to proper respondents. He cannot have it both ways, your honour.”
Meanwhile, when asked by the Chief Justice to respond to the charge laid by the attorneys, Granger’s lawyer (Williams) said that his client is only withdrawing from actively participating in the matter.
“Your honour, Mr. Granger is saying that he does not oppose the question that all we are saying, that in effect, we will not be participating we don’t have to be served in any way…Any respondent can do the same thing,” he said.
“Do you then agree with the attorney for the petitioners that Mr. Granger is not a proper party?” the CJ queried.
“Your honour, we did not file this petition,” Williams stressed, adding that the question of whether Granger is a proper respondent is a matter for the Court to determine.
However, the CJ noted that Williams did not give a response, but rather skirting around the question. Towards, the end, Williams said that he would await the submission of the lawyers for the petitioners. Those lawyers are expected to present their arguments this morning when the court resumes hearing the elections petition case.
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