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Govt violated Constitution in blocking Police promotions- High Court

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 21:22 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Justice Roxanne George

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire on Wednesday ruled that the Executive violated Guyana’s constitution by instructing the Police Service Commission (PSC) not to proceed with the promotion of several senior officers of the Guyana Police Force.

The High Court also awarded GY$200,000 in costs to Attorney-at-Law, Rajendra Jaigobin in whose name the constitutional challenge was filed by Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall on August 17, 2017.

The respondent was Attorney General, Basil Williams who has to pay the costs awarded.

The court agreed with Jaigobin that the Commission, in the exercise of its functions, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority;

In the case that stemmed from Minister of State, Joseph Harmon writing the Secretary to the Commission on July 26, 2017 advising that President David Granger had directed that no promotions for members of the police force must be considered until further notice, the Chief Justice found that that Minister was in flagrant disregard of the constitution and is unlawful, null, void and of no effect.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

She hoped that the Police Service Commission did not act upon the unconstitutional letter.

The Chief Justice noted that Attorney General Williams did did not defend the matter on the merits but rather sought to hide behind legal arguments such as:  “locus standi” and “that the matter is of academic importance”;

She said it is clear that this issue is not of academic importance but rather it is an issue of high constitutional importance.

In a similar situation Minister Simona Broomes had two years ago issued a similar directive to another Service Commission, but it was later struck down by the High Court because it was a constitutional violation.

“In the face of this flagrant disregard for the constitution which the state conceded two years ago, the state should have done the honourable thing and correct the error rather than seek the defend these proceedings,” Nandlall said the judge stated in her ruling.

In the circumstances, the actions of the Minister Harmon in writing that the President has directed that there be no consideration of promotion of police officers was a blatant disregard of Article 226 of the Constitution which insulates the Police Service Commission from influence and directions of any other person or authority, especially political directions

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

The Attorney General opposed the Application on the grounds that Jaigobin had no locus standi to institute the proceedings.

After the expiration of the life of the Police Service Commission, the Attorney General contended that the court should no longer determine the matter because the life of the commission has expired, therefore the matter is no longer a live matter, that it is of academic importance only, and that the courts do not act futility.

Nandlall said he had argued that the wrong complained against is the violation of the express language of Article 226 of the Constitution, the supreme law of Guyana; the letter of Mr. Harmon violates the doctrine of separation of power and Jaigobin is a Guyanese and that the Constitution is the protection of the citizenry against every form of abuse and that every citizen of Guyana has an interest in ensuring that there is constitutional compliance and every citizen of Guyana has an unfettered right to approach the courts whenever that citizen feels that the Constitution has been violated.

Nandlall said a violation of the constitution can never be classified as an academic question; attempting to direct the commission seems to be a recurrent issue as Minister of Simona Broomes had done so with the Public Service Commission two years ago, and that that matter was of high constitutional importance and as the guardian of the constitution the court ought not to have refused to determine a matter when is it alleged that the constitution is contravened.

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November 2017