The Guyana Court of Appeal this afternoon in a 2-1 decision ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear whether Election Petition 99 which was dismissed by the Chief Justice for late service to one of the respondents, was properly dismissed.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings and Justice Dawn Gregory ruled that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter while Justice Rishi Persaud, ruled that the Court does not have jurisdiction.
In January, Chief Justice Roxanne George dismissed the election petition which was filed by APNU+AFC supporters Monica Thomas and Brennan Nurse.
The petitioners were asking the Court to nullify the outcome of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, and declare that President Irfaan Ali is illegally occupying office.
The petition was never heard as the Chief Justice dismissed it completely because it was served late on one of the respondents, former President Granger.
An appeal was filed against the Chief Justice’s ruling.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall and the Attorney for Vice President Jagdeo filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the Court of Appeal has no statutory or Constitutional jurisdiction to hear any appeal to an election petition that was dismissed on procedural grounds or any other reason.
But Attorney for the petitioners, Roysdale Forde argued that the Court of Appeal Act provides the right of appeal in relation to a final matter determined by the High Court.
In his ruling, Justice Rishi Persaud pointed out that in the absence of a clear Constitutional provision, the Court cannot give itself jurisdiction.
He said the petition would have proceeded to trial if Mr. Granger had been served on time. Justice Persaud explained further that Article 163 of the Constitution which is in contention, does not speak to the right to Appeal to the Full Court, nor does the Court of Appeal rules provide for the Appeal.
He dismissed the Appeal for want of jurisdiction.
For her part, Justice Dawn Gregory disagreed with Justice Persaud’s contention and she ruled that the decision of the Chief Justice can be appealed at the Court of Appeal.
She said Article 163 is silent on whether or not an appeal could be filed, but that silence should not be interpreted to mean that only the High Court has jurisdiction. As a result, she dismissed the preliminary objections and ordered that the appeal proceeds.
Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, who broke the tie explained that it is useful to consider the nature of the elections law in the matter.
In her ruling, she said the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction.
The Chancellor said the Chief Justice’s ruling points to dismissing the petition with substantive matters which have not been addressed or determined by the Court.
It is her view that the Appellate Court can hear the objections made and the substantive matter under the Court of Appeal Acts.
The decision of the Court has been stayed for two weeks following a request by the Attorney for the Vice President and the Attorney General to consider the ruling.
If there is no appeal in the matter, the election petition case will be heard.