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High Court takes jurisdiction to hear case challenging President’s suspension of PSC

Prevalence/ gravity of offence and age of offender to guide sentencing

Ruling that the High Court does have jurisdiction to hear the challenge mounted by the Police Service Commission (PSC) against its suspension by President Dr. Irfaan Ali, Justice Gino Persaud, on Wednesday, dismissed an application by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC to have the matter thrown out.

Delivering his ruling via Zoom, Justice Persaud held that he is of the view that the substantive issues should be heard and determined on their merits being a matter of public interest. To hold otherwise, he noted, would left the issue of the legality of the President’s suspension of the PSC “hanging”.

Justice Persaud said that hearing the case on its merits would bring clarity to the role of the Executive arm of the government in such instances. He said that it will also ensure that the constitutionally granted autonomy of the PSC remains protected.

“In the words of the Honourable Chief Justice Roxane George in Rajendra Jaigobin supra, where she states at paragraph 2 of the decision: ‘…It is an issue that cries out for judicial imprimatur because of the serious implications if a ruling is not made…,” Justice Persaud added.

Since the life of the PSC expired last August, its former Chairman, Paul Slowe has been substituted by the court as the applicant in place of the PSC, on the court finding that he has the locus standi to continue the proceedings on behalf of the suspended Commissioners.

Slowe’s case is against Prime Minister Mark Phillips, the Attorney General, Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie, and the Commission’s Secretary.

The respondents have until April 6 to file an affidavit in defence. The applicant was given until April 20 to file an affidavit in reply. The court will thereafter set a date to hear arguments.

Urging the court to dismiss the case, Nandlall had argued that because the life of the PSC expired on August 8, 2021, the constitutional body had no legal standing to continue with proceedings it filed challenging its suspension by President  Ali which was done in June 2021.

While lawyer for the PSC, Dexter Smartt had conceded that the life of the Commission had expired, he had urged Justice Persaud to hear the matter because it touches and concerns the Constitution and the powers of the President.

Smartt had argued that the case filed by the PSC concerns matters that need to be brought to “finality”. Last year, Justice Persaud had removed President Ali as a party to the proceedings after ruling that the Head of State enjoys absolute immunity from the judicial process.