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High Court rules President has power to bestow Senior Counsel on members of the Bar

Justice Nareshwar Harnanan on Thursday upheld submissions by Attorney General Anil Nandlall that the President of Guyana has the power to bestow Senior Counsel status on deserving members of the Bar.ย In doing so, the High Court Judge dismissed the case filed by Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas who had challenged former President David Grangerโ€™s appointment of Attorneys-at-Law Jamela Ali, Stanley Moore, Roysdale Forde and Murseline Bacchus to Senior Counsel.

Jonas had argued that there is no statutory or other power conferred on the President of Guyana to appoint Attorneys-at-Law to Senior Counsel.ย  According to him, the power to elevate lawyers to Senior Counsel lies within the province of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature. Jonas had contended that the former President in making the appointments trespassed into the realm of the Judiciary which violates Article 122 of the Constitution. But Justice Harnanan disagreed.ย The High Court Judge noted that the prerogative to appoint Queenโ€™s/Kingโ€™s Counsel originated with the Monarch. In Guyana, he recounted that that power was exercisable by the Governor, who was the Queenโ€™s representative in British Guiana.

When Guyana gained Republic status in 1970, the Judge said that these prerogative powers exercised by the Queen were transferred to the President of Guyana via the Civil Law of Guyana Act and Republic Act.ย According to the Judge, Section 7 of the Constitution of Guyana stipulates that existing laws, including the Civil Law of Guyana Act, and the Republic Act shall continue in force on and after the promulgating of the Constitution of Guyana Act as if they had been made in pursuance of the Constitution.

In this regard, the Judge held that the President of Guyana has the authority to confer lawyers to the dignity of Senior Counsel. Justice Harnanan, however, pointed out that the time has come for there to be transparency in the process of appointing Senior Counsel. The High Court Judge therefore called on the process to be reformed.