The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today heard arguments for the case about whether the Guyana Court of Appeal has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal filed to challenge the dismissal of the APNU+AFC’s Election Petition 99 of 2020.
At the heart of the case before the CCJ is whether the Chief Justice indeed has the authority to dismiss an election petition on procedural grounds without a right to appeal.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall argued today that there are no statutory provisions or anything on the record which gives the Court of Appeal the right to hear or determine the matter.
He submitted to the Court, that there are provisions in the Constitution for an appeal, but only the substantive matter was determined by the High Court and the applicants were dissatisfied with the ruling.
In the event that the petition was not heard and was dismissed on A technicality, Mr. Nandlall argued that the case should have ended at that instance.
“I dare say with the greatest of respect that the Court of Appeal of Guyana did not get it right because they sought to find an appeal and ground of appeal where one does not exist using the conventional provisions of the Court of Appeal,” the Attorney General said.
In responding to the Attorney General’s submission, CCJ Judge, Justice Jacob Wit questioned the Attorney General on whether he believes that the provision as outlined in his argument gives the first instance Judge too much power to dismiss a petition without the right to appeal.
“Because the Judge can use any procedural device (to give a ruling) I am not saying that the Chief Justice did that in this case, but theoretically, and I am not saying that’s the case here, but there might be a case where the Judge is manifestly wrong but you will still say, well we have to accept that because this is simply in no way appealable?” Justice Wit questioned.
Continuing the argument along the line that the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear the case was Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes who argued that there is a reason why special jurisdiction was given to an election court to determine election-related cases.
But Counsel for the Opposition, Senior Counsel John Jeremie disagreed with the submission of both the Attorney General and SC Mendes.
Jeremie argued that the Chancellor and Appellate Judge, Justice Dawn Gregory were in order when they found that the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.
He explained that while there may be no explicit provisions for the Appeal Court, there are provisions that guide how the Court treats such matters.
“There are a number of other routes available to them which would allow them to have jurisdiction in this matter and I recommend to your lordship the decision of the chancellor in particular and Justice of Appeal, Gregory,” Jeremie noted.
The Court has not set a date for its ruling but has promised to communicate with the parties on when it will be ready to make its decision known.
It stressed, however, the need to have the matter determined quickly given its importance.