Court of Appeal dismisses Election Petition “Order 60” case

Court of Appeal dismisses Election Petition “Order 60” case

The Opposition suffered another major setback in its attempt to vitiate the results of 2020 Elections, with the Court of Appeal ruling this morning that there was nothing unconstitutional about Order 60, thereby upholding the earlier ruling by the Acting Chief Justice.

Order 60 is the order that was used for the recount.

In April 2021, Chief Justice Roxane George dismissed the Election Petition filed by Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick, on the grounds that there was nothing unconstitutional about the Order.

But in challenging that decision at the level of the Court of Appeal, the Applicants, through their Attorneys, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde and Selwyn Pieters, argued that the Parliament of Guyana is the only institution vested with the power by the Constitution to modify the country’s Electoral Laws, and that GECOM’s reliance on Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act to facilitate the National Recount was unconstitutional. 

But in its unanimous decision today, the Appellate Court found that Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act is not unconstitutional.

It said confronted with a major difficulty during the 2020 Elections at a time when the Parliament was dissolved, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) rightfully relied on Section 22 as it crafted the Recount Order (Order 60).  

“The power of GECOM, it has been circumscribed in relation to Section 22 and Order 60 as made by GECOM is one of the instances for the removal of difficulties as is stated in Section 22 of the Act. And the stipulations laid out in Order 22 were conditions which appeared to be satisfied at the time the order was issued. I, therefore, find no abdication of Parliament’s power in this regard or that the section is ultra vires the Constitution,” the Chancellor ruled. 

Justices of Appeal, Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory, also ruled in favour of having the appeal dismissed on the grounds that the activation of Section was necessary given the difficulties that arose in the aftermath of the March 2020 Elections. 

It was explained that Section 22 empowers the Elections Commission to independently treat with unforeseen issues that may arise with aim of electively managing the electoral process to its completion. 

Justice Persaud said Section 22 clearly does not offend Articles 65 and 170 of the Constitution or restricts GECOM from carrying out its functions. 

“In our view, Section 22 is one of the provisions which operationalize the powers and functions of GECOM as mandated in Article 162,” Justice Persaud said.

Weighing on the ruling, the Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who was a party in the case, said the powers exercised by GECOM were therefore intra vires, reasonably exercised and in compliance with the intention of the framers of the Constitution and Parliament. 

“In conclusion, the Court rejected the Appellants’ contention that GECOM by promulgating Order 60 usurped the law-making powers of Parliament. On the contrary, the Court found that GECOM’s power to issue subsidiary legislation in the form of Order 60 was exercised within the acceptable legal parameters and there was no trespass upon the province of Parliament,” the Attorney General said. 

The Court awarded costs in the sum of $150,000 in favour of the four respondents who participated by way of submissions.

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