Court declares Local Gov’t Commission lawfully empowered

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In a judgement handed down by Justice Navindra Singh, the High Court last Friday declared the Local Government Commission to be lawfully established and empowered, effectively dismissing a challenge by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of Georgetown.

With the Fixed Date Application dismissed, the Council was awarded costs in the sum of $200,000 to be paid to the Attorney General and the Local Government Commission.

In March 2022, the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown asked the court to declare that stated sections of the Constitution and the Local Government Commission Act, which give power to local authority organs were irreconcilably inconsistent with each other.

Fundamentally, the M&CC argued that the establishment of a Local Government Commission, by Article 78A of the Constitution, and the vesting of it with a power to regulate and staff local government organs, and a power to resolve disputes collide is inconsistent with Article 75 of the Constitution which provides that local democratic organs shall be autonomous.

The matter came up for hearing on May 23, 2022 and a judgement was delivered on December 09, 2022.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, in his submissions contended that it was always the intent of Parliament to repose authority in a Local Government Commission to deal with all matters relating to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and the power to exercise disciplinary control over local government officers.

He referenced Sections 13 and 120 of the Local Government Commission Act 2013 (No. 18 of 2013) Sections 97, 114 (now repealed) and 118 of the Municipal and District Councils Act.

The legislature in their wisdom to alleviate any ambiguity as to their intendment of the role and functions of the Commission went a step further and enacted the Local Government Commission after the Municipal and District Councils Act, Cap 28:01, was updated in 2012, the AG had noted.

He highlighted too that the Constitution itself is replete with examples of one organ that is ostensibly autonomous and independent being staffed by another organ, as well as its functions being in some way regulated by another agency.

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