No Appeal to Court’s decision ‐ AG Chambers argue

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams SC., has officially pronounced on the move by the opposition PPP to approach the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to appeal the majority decision made by Guyana’s Appellate Court on Monday.

In a release today he explained that the CCJ will be able to hear the case because of the enshrined law.

“Pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, this question is to be answered in the negative. Article 177 (4) provides:

(4) The Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as that question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of this Constitution, and any decision of that Court under this paragraph shall be final.”

AG Williams said while the CCJ is Guyana’s apex Court, the Caribbean Court of Justice Act Cap 3:07 limits the appellate jurisdiction of the Court. Section 4 states:

  1. (1) The Court shall have – (a) original jurisdiction and (b) appellate jurisdiction provided for in this Act as is conferred on it in accordance with the provisions of Part III of the Agreement.

(3) Nothing in this Act shall confer jurisdiction on the Court to hear matters in relation to any decision of the Court of Appeal which at the time of entry into force of this Act was declared to be final by any law.

The Caribbean Court of Justice Act came into force in 2004. At this time Article 177 (4) of the Constitution was already part of the laws of Guyana. It made the decisions of the Court of Appeal final in respect of matters determined thereunder and expressly ousted the jurisdiction of any higher appellate Court.

On a plain reading of Article 177 (4) of the Constitution and section 4 of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act, no appeal shall lie to the Caribbean Court of Justice in respect of matters determined by the Court of Appeal under Article 177(4).

This conclusion in no way conflicts with the powers conferred upon the CCJ under the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Part III of the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice recognises that the CCJ has such jurisdiction and powers as are conferred on it by this Agreement or by the Constitution or any other law of a Contracting Party. ARTICLE XXV (1) states:

ARTICLE XXV APPELLATE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT

  1. In the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, the Court is a superior Court of record with such jurisdiction and powers as are conferred on it by this Agreement or by the Constitution or any other law of a Contracting Party.

This Article recognises the jurisdiction of the CCJ as being derived from three sources – the Agreement, the Constitution or any other law of a Contracting Party.

The issue of priority, therefore, arises where the jurisdiction and powers conferred under the Agreement conflict with that which is conferred by the Constitution or any other law of a Contracting Party.

This issue is resolved in ARTICLE XXV (5) itself which gives precedence to the local law.

It states: Nothing in this Article shall apply to matters in relation to which the decision of the Court of Appeal of a Contracting Party is, at the time of the entry into force of the Agreement pursuant to the Constitution or any other law of that Party, declared to be final.

Therefore, where the effect of the provisions of the Constitution or the local law is to oust the jurisdiction of the Court, even where there is conflict with the Agreement, regard must be given to such local law.

The Constitution is, after all, the supreme law of the land (Article 8 of the Constitution of Guyana) and nowhere in the Constitution exits a provision that mandates that the CCJ is to exercise appellate jurisdiction in respect of all matters determined by the Court of Appeal.

AG Williams said the Caribbean Court of Justice while accepting its position as a superior court of record, has continuously recognised that it only possesses such jurisdiction and powers as are conferred on it by the Agreement or by this Constitution or any other law of the Contracting Party.

In this regard, it does not usurp the jurisdiction reserved, by the laws of that Contracting Party, for the Court of Appeal of the Contracting party.

In light of this, the Attorney General submitted that an Appeal cannot lie to the Caribbean Court of Justice in respect of matters determined under article 177(4) of the Constitution.

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