Robertson, Nandlall clash over application to strike out elections petition

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By Kurt Campbell

The filing of an application by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall to strike out the second elections petition (99/20-P) of the APNU+AFC coalition, attracted strong refutation from attorney-at-law, Mayo Robertson.

During the continuation of the case management conference on Tuesday, Robertson, who is appearing for the defendant, argued that the application should be struck out because the Attorney General did not follow an order of the court made by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George.

He pointed out that the order specifically asked for only submissions to be made and contended that the AG went “off on a frolic of his own” to file an application which asks for a dismissal of the petition based on defective service made on former President David Granger.

Robertson also argued that the AG was forcing the court to hear the application on November 24 when November 30 has been set aside to address the issue of late service on Granger.

He also contended that the AG approached the court by the wrong method – filing a notice of application when he should have filed a summons. Robertson would later give up on that reasoning when told by the Chief Justice that his argument was untenable after a lengthy back and forth between himself, the AG and the Chief Justice.

But even when proceeding with his argument that Nandlall deviated from the order of the court, Robertson also faced some push back.

Nandlall, in explaining the reasons for filing the application, said that while he acknowledged that he exceeded what the court asked him to do, he did in fact have a right to file the application since he is the Attorney General.

Nandlall said he did not need the leave or permission of the court to file the application although it had asked only for submissions on an observation already made by the court that service on Granger was made late.

Nandlall said he filed the application to buttress his submission and assist the court but he does not see how it would be prejudicial to the interest of any respondent.

While the hearing was adjourned to November 30, when the application will be heard fully, along with whether Granger is a necessary party, the Chief Justice told Robertson on Tuesday that “what goes for the goose will also have to go for the gander.”

She claimed that Robertson also violated her order and submitted voluminous documents that have already been filed and which the order asks not to be filed again.

Robertson was quick to apologise but Justice George emphasised that if he proceeds with that argument, then she can strike out his submissions similarly because he too did not comply with the same order that he said Nandlall has failed to comply with.

“But we are not going to go down that road,” she added.

Already, the Attorney for Bharrat Jagdeo, Trinidadian Senior Counsel, Andrew Mendes, has made clear his intentions to argue that Granger is a necessary party in the case.

Mendes said this question is also relevant when the issue of service is examined. Mendes said if the court decides that Granger is not a necessary party, then he will be struck out only from the proceedings when defective service is established.

But if the court decides that Granger is a necessary party, then the entire petition will need to be struck out. Granger was served on September 25, although he should have been served five business days after the petition was filed on September 15.

The interest parties will further ventilate these points when the case management continues on November 30.

The APNU+AFC filed its first elections petition (88/20-P) on August 31, 2020, officially challenging the outcome of the March 02, 2020 elections and the recount exercise from which the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) emerged victorious.

A second petition (99/20-P) was filed subsequently on September 15, 2020, also challenging the March polls. The petitioners are Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick, both residents of Georgetown.

Ultimately, the coalition wants the Supreme Court, after hearing its petition, to cancel the March 02 polls, which saw it losing the seat of government, and order fresh polls within 90 days.

If they succeed in their case, the petitioners are seeking orders from the court to declare that elections were so badly held that the results from it cannot be deemed to be the will of the people. At the same time, they want the court to have David Granger declared as President under those very elections they claim were conducted against the electoral laws and constitution of the country.

The petitioners contend that the Chief Elections Officer was not required to use the data from the national vote recount to produce his elections report from which the results were declared.

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