Court denies PM’s request to put judgment on hold

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – An attempt by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to put a hold on the recent Court of Appeal judgment in favour of Sir Gerald Watt QC was denied by the same court yesterday.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which is now sitting in Antigua, while refusing to grant the stay, gave the PM conditional leave to appeal to the Privy Council.

“In respect of the stay, the Court is mindful of the principles engaged. Those principles engaged are at the Court’s discretion.

“The appellant (Spencer) has set out no basis for the grant of the order (re damages and costs). Without evidential basis, the Court is not in a position to rule in favour of the applicant. The stay is refused,” Chief Justice Janice Pereira ruled.

Attorneys for the PM have 90 days to procure court records to be “transmitted to the judicial committee of the Privy Council.”

Spencer’s lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin said the matter, in a wider perspective, concerns the functioning of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).

Datadin argued that a stay of the order of the court would maintain the status quo that existed before the judgment.

He said the composition of the commission would continue until such time that the Privy Council hears the appeal.

The attorney said the Privy Council’s ruling could reverse “whatever steps would be taken now.

“This would put ABEC in a position of uncertainty,” he said.

Dr David Dorsett, who represented Sir Gerald, said the Court made four declarations in its judgment.

Dr Dorsett said, which the Court of Appeal agreed, that the Court cannot stay declarations.

The Court, he said, can grant a stay pertaining to payment of costs.

The Court of Appeal on May 28 overturned a High Court judgment by Justice Mario Michel and ruled that the country’s leader acted unlawfully when he signed an order on January 31, 2012, bringing into effect, retroactively, the amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act which ensured Sir Gerald’s removal from the commission.

The Court agreed that Spencer’s decision to sign the January 31 (2012), order giving it retroactivity dating back to December 22, 2011, was unconstitutional.

High Court Justice Jennifer Remy on January 25, 2012, ruled Sir Gerald’s removal a year earlier was illegal and he was “entitled to and continues to be the chairman of the Electoral Commission.”

Spencer appealed Justice Remy’s judgment and the Court of Appeal held that Sir Gerald was, at all material times, chairman of ABEC.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)