High Court rules President has power to confer silk

– Judge says time for reform opportune

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High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan on Thursday ruled that Guyana’s President has the power to appoint members of the local bar to the dignity of senior counsel.

“This court does not find the complaints of the applicant to be meritorious,” the judge said while insisting that the President has the prerogative to appoint a senior counsel.

In so ruling, he dismissed an application filed by attorney-at-law, Timothy Jonas which challenged four Senior Counsel (SC) appointments that were made by former President, David Granger last year.

“The orders are therefore refused,” the Judge said.

High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan

Justice Harnanan, while ruling on the case that was brought before him back in August 2020, said the appointments made by the President is in no way an infringement on the independence of the judiciary.

“There is no nexus between the appointment of senior counsel by the President and the contention that the independence of the judiciary is somehow compromised…or further, that it is somehow an intrusion,” he added.

Examining the historical context to how the executive came to have a role in appointing senior counsel, Justice Harnanan explained that the once royal prerogative power was handed down from the crown to the Governor-General and then the Executive President when Guyana became an independent country.

Attorney-at-law, Devindra Kissoon of the commercial firm London House Chambers

While Justice Harnanan handed down his ruling in favour of the executive, he said the time for reform of the process in appointing senior counsel is opportune.

He said there is a need for transparency in the nomination process for persons the President intends to confer with silk. But the case brought before the court does not challenge the process, and as such, the ruling does not address that.

Jonas, who was appointed Senior Counsel status by President Ali on October 30, 2020, and will be presented with his instrument of appointment later on Thursday, had asked the court to grant an Order of Certiorari to quash the SC appointments of attorneys-at-law Jamila Ali, Roysdale Forde, Mursalene Bacchus and Stanley Moore.

Devindra Kissoon represented Edward Luckhoo S.C., Andrew Pollard S.C., Stephen Fraser S.C. and Stanley Moore S.C.

Some 22 persons were appointed senior counsel by former President David Granger between 2016 and 2019, but Jonas had only challenged the last batch of four made in December 2019.

Jonas, through his attorney, Teni Housty, had contended that the power to appoint senior counsel must rest with the Full Bench of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature.

He complained that no statutory or other power rests with the President to make an appointment and accused the President of intruding into the realm of the judiciary.

But Attorney General, Anil Nandlall pushed back against those arguments and insisted that the President is vested with the power to confer silk. Thursday’s ruling upheld that argument.

President Irfaan will go ahead with appointing Anil Nandlall, Timothy Jonas and Jamela Ali to Senior Counsel later Thursday. They are expected to be presented with their instrument of appointment at State House.

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