CCJ overturns Appeal Court’s decision to hear dismissed elections petition

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has dismissed the decision of the Court of Appeal, which contended it had jurisdiction to hear the appeal of Elections Petition 99.

Justice Winston Anderson, who handed down the ruling Tuesday morning, explained that no appeal was possible, because jurisdiction could not simply be “created”.

Justice Anderson upheld the argument that the High Court, pursuant to Article 163 of the Constitution and Section 3 (1) of the Elections Validity Act, has exclusive jurisdiction on election matters.

“Rule 9 [of Election Petition 99] was breached, and so it fell to the high court, the court before which the petition had been presented and which exclusive jurisdiction was vested…to determine the issue of non-compliance.

It could not be accepted that proceedings which began in the high court under this exclusive, exclusionary, and special jurisdiction for dealing with elections petitions suddenly transmogrified into ordinary civil law proceedings on appeal,” Justice Anderson stated.

On December 21, 2021, the Court of Appeal issued a majority decision that it has jurisdiction to entertain an appeal challenging Chief Justice Roxane George’s decision to dismiss the petition, on the grounds of late and improper service.

Petition 99, which challenged the final elections results declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on August 2, 2020, was nullified on the grounds of non-compliance of service on the second-named respondent, former President, David Granger.

Those results showed that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) won the March 2 elections with 233,336 votes, while the APNU+AFC secured 217,920 votes.

The petitioners in the matter had argued that President Granger was not a proper and necessary party to the petition and therefore, his late service was of little to no consequence to the matter. The petition documents seen by the court showed that Granger, who is also head of the APNU+AFC list, was served on September 25, 2020, outside of the stipulated timeframe.

Section 8 of the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act (1998) states “within the prescribed time, not exceeding five days after the presentation of an election petition, the petitioner shall in the prescribed manner serve on the respondent a notice of the presentation of the petition.”

Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory had both agreed that the court had the jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal made by APNU+AFC’s Roysdale Forde.

However, Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud disagreed, saying that there was no right to appeal since there was no final decision by the CJ, who had dismissed the application on the grounds of serious non-compliance.

He even ruled that the Full Court of the High Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal and ruled that it be dismissed.

Justice Anderson, in Tuesday’s CCJ ruling, concluded that “the decision to appeal the nullity is itself a nullity”.

The court decided that the parties involved will bear their costs.

The Caribbean Court of Justice is Guyana’s final court of appeal.