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Chief Justice orders Legal Affairs Minister to operationalise Judicial Review Act

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Attorney General Basil Williams

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire on Monday ordered Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams to bring into force  the Judicial Review Act  (JRA)by July 31, 2018.

The Bill was approved by the National Assembly and eventually signed into law by then President Bharrat Jagdeo 2010, but was never operationalised.

Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, who got a temporary High Court order in December 2017, said when the Bill comes into effect, ordinary Guyanese would be better able to exercise legal leverage against the government.

“A number of remedies you can get now against public officials and take against the government. You can’t get an injunction right now against the government. Under this Act, you can get it. You file for a judicial review, ordinarily before this act, you could not have gotten compensation, now you can get compensation and whole set of remedies for abuse of power by any public officer or any statutory agency,” Nandlall said.

The Court Ordered the Respondent to pay to the Nandlall, GY$100,000 in cost. Nandlall was represented by Manoj Narayan and Rajendra Ramkisson Jaigobin.

The High Court noted the relationship between the Judicial Review Act and the recently introduced Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). In delivering her judgement, Nandlall said the Chief Justice considered the fact that the 65-member National Assembly had supported the Bill unanimously,  and he and the Guyana Bar Association had written the Minister of Legal Affairs requesting that the Judicial Review Act be operationalised.

However, Nandlall said the High Court noted that no action had been taken although the current government has been in office for three years. “The Court accepted the Applicant’s submission that when the CPR came into force, the discretion which the Respondent had to bring the Act into force was transformed into an obligatory duty and the Respondent failed to discharge this duty,” said Nandlall.

Then Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh had paved the way for the CPR to take effect in February, 2017.

On the thorny question of whether the Chief Justice had over-stepped her boundaries into the work of the Executive in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers, Nandlall said Justice George-Wiltshire rejected that argument on the ground that the Executive had already completed its work on the Bill, to the extent that it had been approved by the legislature and assented by the President. “The Chief Justice also considered the Respondents submission that the Court would be breaching the separation of powers doctrine if it were to mingle in the affairs of the legislative and executive.

The Honourable Court made it clear that the JRA had been assented to already which meant it had passed the stage of the legislative arm. Further, that in a situation where the Minister failed to perform his duty, the Court is empowered to compel the said Minister to perform his duty,” said Nandlall, a former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.