Ruling reserved on ABEC controversy

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in an appeal filed by Sir Gerald Watt QC, former chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).

The court said a date for the delivery of its decision will be announced.

Sir Gerald challenged his removal as chairman of ABEC and a High Court judge ruled in his favour – making several declarations – including the fact the Act under recommendation of the prime minister was null, void and of no legal effect.

However, after the court ruled that Sir Gerald continues to maintain his position as chairman and entitled to all the benefits under the post, parliament made amendments to the Representation of the People Amendment Act.

That Act dismantled the commission which Sir Gerald heads and brought another one into force.

Sir Gerald is now seeking to have the Court of Appeal find Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer overstepped his power in signing the order – bringing the 2011 amendments into force retroactively from December 22, 2011.

Dr David Dorsett, Sir Gerald’s attorney, said when one examines the chronology of the facts, “He (the PM) exercised his powers unlawfully.”

The attorney argued Spencer had no authority to make the legislation come into effect retrospectively when it is not stated in the substantive Act.

Spencer’s action, he said, was an executive act and not legislative.

Attorney for the PM and Juno Spencer, who are respondents in this claim, Sanjeev Datadin, argued the decision to amend the Act was an act of parliament.

He said parliament has the privilege to enact any legislation it needs to fall in line with the constitution.

Datadin said there is nothing wrong with Spencer’s actions of bringing the law into effect from the day it was gazetted in the official gazette.

The attorney said it was parliament, which decided to change the “way the commission is constituted in the Act.”

He argued the constitutionality of the Act has not been challenged and is therefore valid.

(More court news in today’s Daily OBSERVER)