Ruling on presidential term limit case deferred to February 21

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Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Carl Singh has deferred his ruling on the presidential term limit case until February 21.
He was expected to rule on a State-sponsored appeal against former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang’s ruling that the two-term presidential limit was unconstitutional.
Chang’s ruling was appealed by then Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman and current Attorney General, Basil Williams.
The constitutional challenge case was filed by Georgetown resident Cedric Richardson in February 2015, who 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-third majority in the National Assembly, unconstitutionally curtails and restricts his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector to elect former President Bharrat 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-third majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.
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 acting 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 encroach on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of the referendum.

APPEAL
But Trotman and Williams, not satisfied with the Chief Justice’s interpretation of the Constitution, filed an appeal.
On August 7, 2015, the then Solicitor General Sita Ramlall and Attorney Roysdale Forde filed the appeal on five grounds, including the 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-third majority vote of all members, was unconstitutional and of no effect as it failed to comply with Article 164(2a).
The appeal also opined that 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.”
It also argued that Justice Chang erred when he ruled that the proviso to Article 164 (2b) 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 (2a) and or repugnancy with Article 1 and Article 9, both of which require a referendum for the amendment for any alteration.
The appeal advanced the argument that Justice Chang erred when he ruled that while the Constitution provides for representative democracy, such representative democracy cannot encroach on popular sovereignty from which it derives and which is entrenched by the requirement of a referendum.
Additionally, it said Justice Chang erred in law in not satisfying himself that the court had jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff. (Guyana Times)

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