Latest update May 31st, 2023 3:04 PM
May 18, 2023 Court Stories, Features / Columnists, News
Kaieteur News – Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall, SC, on Tuesday said that government is entitled to express a view critical of the judiciary as long as it is warranted.
The AG’s comments were based on Tuesday’s decision by Senior Magistrate Leron Daly, who discharged the case against former Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who was accused of selling State property valued US$40 million to B.K Marines Inc. for a mere US$100,000, a price that was grossly undervalued. The case was thrown out after the magistrate upheld a no-case submission made to the court by Attorneys-at-Law Roysdale Forde, SC, and Dawn Cush. In their submission the lawyers contended that their client is not considered a “Public Officer” a key element of the charge that was brought against the former minister by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
The magistrate agreed that the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that Jordan met the criteria to be classified as a “Public Officer.” In a statement on Tuesday evening the Attorney General expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the magistrate handled the case and underscored that her ruling amounts to an “egregious error.” He referenced a similar case where Dr. Ashni Singh was slapped with a similar charge in relation to him selling State property while he was Minister of Finance between 2011 and 2015.
According to Nandlall, the validity of the charge was challenged in the High Court on similar grounds, that as Minister of Finance, Dr. Singh was not a Public Officer. However, after reviewing the submissions made to the court, the Acting Chief Justice (CJ), Roxanne George-Wiltshire ruled that Dr. Singh can be charged with the offence of ‘Misconduct in Public Office’ notwithstanding that he was a Minister. Nandlall’s argument is that with the CJ ruling not being appealed it remains law on the issue. He underscored that the two cases are almost identical in both issues of facts and law, and the decision of the learned Chief Justice in the Dr. Singh case constitutes a binding precedent on the learned magistrate.
Further, the attorney general reminded that first-year law students are taught that the doctrine of Stare Decisis, by virtue of which the decision of the High Court on a particular principle of law, is binding precedent on a magistrate, to the extent that the magistrate has no jurisdictional freedom to depart from that High Court’s decision.
Shortly after his statement was published, Nandlall went on his Facebook programme “Issues in the News” where he expressed similar sentiments on the ruling. He clarified that his statement that was issued on the ruling is not intended to bring the administration of justice into disrepute, adding “it is simply intended to draw to the public’s attention the egregious error, an elementary error made by the learned magistrate.” He added that this new case shows the cavalier manner important cases are being treated.
Responding to Nandlall, Attorney-at-Law Selwyn Pieters called on the Attorney General to “Stop attacking the judiciary including the Magistracy.” He reminded that if the AG is displeased with the way the matter was handled by the magistrate, the law allows for an appeal. The lawyer called on Nandlall to stop what he has being doing on his Facebook programme and in his press releases adding that “it does nothing to enhance your standing in society nor confidence in our judiciary.” Two weeks ago Vice President also called on the judiciary to make predictable decisions said that it was treading in “murky waters” after Justice Sandil Kissoon ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure ExxonMobil’s complies with the insurance provisions in its Liza Phase One Environmental Permit.
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