Chief Justice dismisses one election petition, other to proceed

– AG lauds CJ’s judgement
– says law ‘rigid’ about late service of elections petitions

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC says the decision handed down today by Chief Justice (Ag.) Roxane George is testimony to the rigidity of the law regarding service of an elections petition to a respondent.

Justice George dismissed one of two petitions filed by the APNU+AFC Coalition, challenging the validity of the results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.

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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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…”

Justice George also rejected a Supplementary Affidavit filed by the petitioners without the Court’s permission. That Affidavit showed that Mr. Granger was served on September 18, but reportedly signed a later date by mistake.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General said the petition is supported by 100 years of case law authorities.

The law is very clear. When election petition documents or the election petitions are not served within the time stipulated, the law is very strict, the law is very rigid and the law says the petition is a nullity and must be dismissed, that the Court has no jurisdiction to deal with a petition affected to non-service or late service in relation to any of the documents.

He said Mr. Granger was a necessary respondent in the petition and must be named and was required to be served.

“Mr. Granger represented a list of candidates who won seats in the National Assembly and it would have been wrong against the principles of natural justice and fairness, not to have named him a party.”

The Attorney General said it was quite ironic, that the APNU+AFC’s petition was dismissed for late service on its own leader. That by itself tells a very tragic tale of incompetence, he said.

The Attorney General and lawyers representing respondent, Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo had filed summons for the petition to be struck out since the requisite documents were not served within the prescribed time by law.

The Attorney General said the long, reasoned, comprehensive judgement by the Chief Justice, examined all the legal issues and case law and dealt with “every argument in an admirable way.”

“I believe it was a very good judgement and a judgment that will guide us in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the court ruled that Petition 88, which challenges the validity of Order 60 or the National Recount Order, which guided the National Vote Recount, will go forward.

Justice George said petitioners and the respondents will proceed to file their arguments, noting that there were some “factual issues” that would have to be advanced by GECOM regarding the origin of Order 60.

Petitioners have until February 12 to file their submissions and March 5 for the respondents to reply. Submissions in reply are due on or before March 19. Parties will return to Court on April 5.

The AG said his party would be submitting as evidence the Statements of Poll (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) which determined how the electorate voted. He said permission was sought that they be afforded the opportunity to lead them into evidence at the appropriate time. Justice George also made a preservatory order for all elections documents. The Court also ordered that all SOPs and SORs be placed in the custody of the Registrar of the Supreme Court.