High Court rules President has authority to confer lawyers with Silk


Justice Nareshwar Harnanan on Wednesday ruled that the President of Guyana has the power to confer lawyers with the dignity of Senior Counsel, otherwise known as Silk. The Judge, however, noted that there is a need for increased transparency and the required criteria for the bestowing of Silk.

In this regard, the Judge said that it is time to reform the process for the appointment of Senior Counsel. In arriving at his ruling, Justice Harnanan placed heavy reliance on the Republic Act and the Civil Law of Guyana Act.

The Judge held that the conferral of Silk had been done through the exercise of the sovereign power of the Queen of the United Kingdom of which Guyana is a former colony.

Upon gaining Republic status, the Judge noted that the prerogative powers once exercised by the Queen were transferred to the President of Guyana pursuant to the Republic Act and the Civil Law of Guyana Act.

According to the Judge, such powers are recognized by the Common Law and preserved through statutes. Against this backdrop, Justice Harnanan held that the President of Guyana has the power to appoint members of the Bar to the dignity of Senior Counsel.

Against this backdrop, the High Court Judge dismissed an application by Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas who had asked the court to declare former President David Granger’s appointment of Attorneys-at-Law Stanley Moore, Roysdale Forde, Jamela Ali, and Murseline Bacchus to Senior Counsel, unlawful.

Jonas was seeking an Order of Certiorari to be directed to Attorney General Anil Nandlall quashing the conferral of Silk on the four lawyers deeming it unconstitutional. Former President Granger had conferred the lawyers with Senior Counsel status in December 2019.

In dismissing the application, the Judge disagreed with Jonas’ contention that the President, being a member of the Executive, trespassed into the realm of the Judiciary in making the appointments. Jonas had contended that the President’s conferral of Silk on the lawyers contravened Article 122 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, a Respondent in the case, had submitted that the prerogative to appoint Queen’s/King’s Counsel originated with the monarch, and in Guyana’s case, was exercisable by the Governor, who was the Queen’s representative in British Guiana.

According to the Attorney General, the powers of the Queen were exercisable by the Governor-General pursuant to the Guyana Independence Ordinance 1966, which powers include the prerogative to appoint Senior Counsel.

“Additionally, the common law of England, which included the prerogative of the monarch to confer Silk became the common law of Guyana since 1917 by virtue of the Civil Law of Guyana Act. The Republic Act then captured the, inter alia, prerogatives of the Queen, and vested same in the President of Guyana in 1970.”

Section 7 of the Constitution of Guyana, according to Nandlall, stipulates that existing laws, including the Civil Law of Guyana Act, and the Republic Act shall continue in force on and after the promulgating of the Constitution of Guyana Act as if they had been made in pursuance of the Constitution.

These proceedings come more than a year after Jonas had his Senior Counsel appointment withdrawn by former President Granger after he announced his affiliation with A New and United Guyana (ANUG) – a new political party formed to contest the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.

At 04:30 pm today, President Dr Irfaan Ali will be appointing Nandlall, Jonas, and Ali to the dignity of Senior Counsel.