State loses Dipcon case at CCJ

- found failure to appeal judgment within prescribed period as “unacceptable”

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The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by the Attorney General, Basil Williams in a matter stemming from a multi-million-dollar contractual dispute between the Attorney General and Dipcon Engineering Ltd.

Back in 2015, a $446M judgment was granted in favour of Dipcon against the government in the High Court. Based on the ruling, the government was required to pay interest on the sum, in addition to 6 percent interest per annum from 2009 when the judgment was filed, to October 2015 and interest of four percent until the sum is fully paid. The Attorney General Chambers had missed the stipulated time to appeal the case, but later filed an out-of-time appeal, which Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh refused to allow.

The State, represented by the Attorney General, appealed to the CCJ thereafter to extend the time in which to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court.

The CJJ in its ruling found the reasons offered by the State for failing to appeal the Supreme Court’s judgment within the prescribed period to be “unacceptable”.

According to a statement on the CCJ’s website, the State blamed the extended delay on the fact that the previous Government had engaged private counsel to conduct the case and when the Government changed after general elections in May 2015 the new Attorney General and staff were unaware of the case or the judgment.

In their approach to the CCJ, the State alleged that the Court of Appeal did not properly consider the reasons for the delay in filing the appeal and the potential merits of the case, the CCJ said.

The CCJ determined that since the appeal concerned a procedural issue it did not fall under the umbrella of section 6 of the Guyana CCJ Act.

“The correct procedure was for the State to apply for and obtain special leave to appeal from the CCJ under section 8 of the Act,” the Court said.

It added that the State would also have needed to apply for an extension of time to apply for special leave since the CCJ rules require such an application to be made within 42 days of the Court of Appeal judgment.

Since this was not done, the CCJ found that it had no jurisdiction to allow the appeal against the Court of Appeal’s refusal to grant an extension of time.

However, the CCJ acknowledged that it may, in a proper case, grant an extension of time to comply with its rules to prevent a clear miscarriage of justice.

Further, there was nothing before the Court that indicated it needed to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction to prevent an apparent miscarriage of justice.

The Court dismissed the appeal and awarded costs to Dipcon Engineering Ltd.

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