Court has jurisdiction to hear matter – Judge

Red House lease challenge

…as AG’s submissions overruled

Acting Chief Justice Madam Yonette Cummings-Edwards, on Friday delivering her ruling in the matter filed by the Cheddi Jagan Research Inc against the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, overruled submissions made by Attorney General Basil Williams challenging the jurisdiction of the court over the Red House lease revocation, and said that while the President is immune from the proceedings, his actions are not.

According to former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, the Chief Justice, in her determination, noted that in any event, the issue must be properly dealt with after evidence has been taken.

After her ruling, the Court granted leave to the AG to file an affidavit in answer within seven days, and for the applicant to file an affidavit in reply, if necessary. The Court has further ordered the parties to lay over their submissions. The matter will again be heard later this month.

At a press conference held at the state-owned television channel NCN, the Attorney General reiterated his contention that the court has no jurisdiction over the President’s actions. “I am saying the court had no jurisdiction, but the court is saying they can’t believe the applicant and they would want to know more; but I believe (that) if you can’t believe the applicant, then that’s the end of the case,” the AG noted. He further stated that Government has the option to either appeal the matter or continue the matter.

Earlier this year, AG Williams had expressed that the Red House lease was invalid and could not be pleaded in any court of justice. He had argued that the case should be thrown out because the applicants had failed to make full and frank disclosures before the court. But Nandlall, in refuting the AG’s contentions, had noted that the Minister’s arguments were premature at that stage, and Nandlall had also accused the AG of pressuring the Chief Justice by signifying on several occasions that the President has a special interest in the Red House proceedings.Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams is representing Government in this matter, while his predecessor, Anil Nandlall, is representing the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Inc, which is challenging the State’s decision to revoke the Red House lease.

The Attorney General had, in February, presented arguments which supported his claim that the court has no jurisdiction over the case, since the lease was revoked by President David Granger. Williams had noted that no civil action could be brought against the Head of State if he executes the functions of his office under Article 182 of the Constitution.Last year, President David Granger gave the occupants of the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre 48 hours to vacate the premises, but Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has described this directive as “unconscionable and vindictive”.