Parties in the Presidential term limit Constitution appeal case were on Friday ordered to have their submissions put in writing and be prepared by February 15.
The case came up for hearing in the Court of Appeal before Justices Carl Singh, B S Roy and Yonette Cummings-Edwards.
The constitutional challenge case was filed by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson in February, 2015.Richardson had sought the court’s interpretation of the provisions in the Constitution regarding the two term limit for Guyana’s presidency.
The case, which was filed by Attorneys Emily Dodson and Shawn Allicock, on behalf of Richardson, argued that Act 17 of 2001 which was passed by a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, unconstitutionally curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect former President Bharat Jagdeo as the Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Richardson had contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal. He sought the court’s interpretation to determine whether the amendment with referendum should not have been held, instead of the two-thirds majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.
In his July 9, 2015 ruling, then Chief Justice Ian Chang in his written ruling said that the purported alteration of Article 90 by the Act No 17 of 2001, in substance and effect, undoubtedly diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.
The court views that Act 17 of 2001 needed a referendum and is invalid and without legal effect for reason of non-compliance, the ruling stated.
The Chief Justice further noted that Act 17 of 2001, which purports to alter Article 90 of the 1980 Constitution, seeks to dilute the pre-existing democratic rights of the electorate to elect a President of their choice. As such, while the Constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot entrench on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.”
Following the ruling by the Chief Justice, the Government, led by its Attorney General Basil Williams and former National Assembly Speaker Raphael Trotman, had said that it was not satisfied with the Chief Justice’s interpretation of the Constitution and filed an appealed.
On August 7, 2015, the then Solicitor General Sita Ramlall and Attorney Roysdale Forde, filed the appeal on five grounds, including that fact that the Chief Justice blundered in law.
In the appeal, the Government through Ramlall contended that among other things: The Chief Justice misdirected himself in law when he ruled that the National Assembly, which passed Act No 17 of 2001 purporting to alter Article 90 of the Constitution by way of a two-thirds majority vote of all members, was unconstitutional and of no effect as it failed to comply with Article 164(2) (a).
Justice Chang erred when he ruled that the purported alteration of Article 90 by Act No 17 of 2001 in substance and effect “diminishes the democratic rights of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President by excluding from presidential candidates citizens who have served for two terms as a President.”
Justice Chang erred when he ruled that the Proviso to Article 164 (2)(b) of the Constitution affected the purported amendment to Article 90 insofar as it seeks to “trench on and dilute” the pre-existing democratic right of the electorate to elect as President a person of their own choice and is invalid and without legal effect for reason of non-compliance with Article 162 (2) (a) and or repugnancy with Article 1 and Article 9, both of which require a referendum for the amendment for any alteration.
Justice Chang erred when he ruled that while the Constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot trench on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of a referendum.
Justice Chang erred in law in not satisfying himself that the court had jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff.
Prior to Friday’s court proceedings, unprepared Attorney General Basil Williams had written to Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh asking for the hearing to be adjourned until February. As such, when the matter was called on Friday, it was adjourned to February 15 for written submissions. (Guyana Times)