The Full Court has granted a stay application in favour of former President David Granger, pending its determination on whether or not Justice Navendra Singh should preside over the trial into the former president’s $2 billion libel suit against Public Communications Specialist Kit Nascimento, Stabroek News, Kaieteur News and the Guyana Times News Paper.
The Former President, who sued Nascimento in May 2021 over a number of letters published in the local press deemed to be libelous, has objected to Justice Singh presiding over the trial which is set to commence later this month.
Having heard a series of arguments on Thursday, the Full Court, comprising of Justice Damone Younge and Justice Gino Persaud, indicated that it would require time to consider the arguments, and would not be in a position to hand down its ruling ahead of February 14 when the trial is expected to commence.
As such, it granted the application to stay the trial pending its ruling on April 27, 2023.
The Former President had objected to Justice Singh presiding over the Pre-Trial Review (PRT) and the trial, and in doing so, withheld his consent, however, Justice Singh waived that requirement and proceeded with the PTR.
Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who along with Legal Counsel Selwyn Pieters appeared on behalf of Mr Granger, told the Full Court that the High Court Judge erred in law when he exercised his discretion at his own initiative to waive the requirement for a Pre-Trial Review without proper consideration.
Alluding to Part 38 (5) of the Civil Procedure Rules, the Senior Counsel argued that pre-trial Judge ought not to be the case management Judge or the presiding Judge at the trial.
Interjecting, Justice Gino Persaud said, in his prima facie view, the CMC Judge ought to be the trial Judge.
“The CMC judge always have to be the trial judge and it is not opened at any time for a litigant to choose which judge does the trial,” Justice Persaud said while calling on the Senior Counsel to address the issue of whether or not the claimant could object to the CMC judge presiding over the trial.
“To me, the latter argument is very problematic. I am not aware in this country that litigants could choose who hears a trial,” Justice Persaud added.
In his response, Mr Forde turned the Court’s attention once again to Part 38 (5) of the CPR, arguing that, according to the rules, the judge, who conducts the Pre-Trial Review must not where practicable be the CMC judge or preside at the trial unless the parties agree.
“We respectfully submit that the judge ought to have directed his mind to the circumstance which would made it impracticable for him not to be the Pre-Trial Review Judge and the trial judge thus not requiring the consent of the applicant in order for him to be able to proceed,” Mr Forde argued.
Attorney-at-Law Kashir Khan, who appeared on behalf of Mr Nascimento, told the Court that though Justice Singh in February 2022 had set April 28, 2022 for the commencement of the Pre-Trial Review, Mr Granger never registered his objection until June, 2022.
Further, he contended that what took place was not in compliance with a Pre-Trial Review and therefore was not a PTR but rather a continuation of the CMC.
He argued that PTRs are conducted to encourage settlements prior to the trial and assist in identifying the narrow issues ahead of the trial.
“When one examines the pleadings there is no settlement in this; there is not going to be a settlement of this, so that limp, the object of a Pre-Trial Review is not going to be exercised,” he argued while noting that there was no narrowing of any issues. Mr Khan said he saw no issue with the judge waiving the CPR.
The case will come up again on April 27 at 13:30hrs when the Full Court will hand down its decision.
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