CCJ grants stay of enforcement of money judgment despite repeated delays and denials by Court of Appeal

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In a nail biting sequence of events the Caribbean Court of Justice (the “CCJ”) at the last minute on Wednesday stopped the sale of a Queenstown house owned by Hardat Singh pending his appeal, moments before its scheduled execution sale, despite the Guyana Court of Appeal’s refusal to do so.

The case before the CCJ arises from a US$300,000 money judgment granted in favour of Ann Narine against Hardat Singh back in 2020.

Judgment was granted against Singh after a hearing was held in his in absence, after Narine claimed that she served him with the proceedings by courier in New York. Singh appealed to the Full Court saying he was not served with the proceedings, that he didn’t know of the hearing date, and that in any event, he didn’t owe Narine anything. He contended that there was no credible evidence in support of Narine’s claims and in the interests of justice the judgment issued should be set aside.

On June 14, 2022, the Full Court comprising of Justices Barlow and Corbin denied his appeal.

Singh then applied to the Court of Appeal on June 28, 2022 for leave to appeal. On July 6, 2022, Narine obtained a writ of seizure and sale of Singh’s Queenstown home. Upon learning of the seizure, Singh ion August 12, 2022 made an urgent application to the Guyana Court of Appeal for a stay citing the looming execution sale. Despite the obvious urgency and letters written by Singh’s counsel to the Registrar, the Court of Appeal took more than 6 months to schedule the matter for hearing. At the hearing eventual held in February 2023, the Judge in Chambers, Justice Dawn Gregory, indicated that she was reluctant to grant a stay for procedural reasons since the application for leave for appeal had not yet been determined, and that she could not do so until leave to appeal had been granted by the Court of Appeal, and suggested that Singh refile his application before the full bench of the Court of Appeal.

In February, 2023, the Marshalls of the High Court levied upon Singh’s property, in the final step before the execution sale, the Court of Appeal up until this point declining to intervene. On April 20, 2023, Singh filed another application for a stay of the execution sale, and despite multiple correspondences to the Court requesting the matter be heard, the Court of Appeal did not respond. At this juncture Singh was effectively left without a remedy, the Court of Appeal on one hand not scheduling his application for leave to appeal for a hearing, and on the other saying that it could not grant a stay until his application for leave to appeal had been granted.

Then, more than two years after Singh’s application for leave to appeal, on April 19, 2024, the Court of Appeal, comprising of Chancellor Yonette Cummings, Justice Dawn Gregory, and Justice Navindra Singh, finally granted Singh’s application for leave to appeal. Despite granting leave to appeal, and despite the looming execution sale, the majority of the judges of the Court of Appeal still refused to address Singh’s second application for a stay, which by this time was pending for one year.

On June 8, 2024, the sale of Singh’s property was gazetted to be sold on Tuesday July 2, 2024. Singh alerted the Court to request that the request for a stay be granted, and again no response was received. Then on Friday June 28, 2024, a few business hours before the scheduled execution sale, the majority of the judges of the Court of Appeal comprising of Justices Cummings and Gregory (Justice Navindra Singh dissenting), denied Singh’s appeal.

Singh pleaded with the Court to issue a temporary stay of the execution sale, to allow him time to appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice, stating that since the Court of Appeal’s decision was issued on a Friday afternoon, and that since Monday July 1, 2024 was a holiday, it would be less than 4 working hours before his house would be sold. Singh pointed out that without at least a short stay, he would have very little time to file an appeal to the CCJ, and that if his house was sold on July 2, 2024, his appeal would be moot and he would be without any remedy. While Justice Navindra Singh was minded to grant the stay for a few days given the looming holiday weekend, Justice Cummings and Gregory refused the application, stating that Singh was at liberty to make his filing with the CCJ.

With only hours to spare, Singh made a last ditch attempt to secure a stay directly from the CCJ, filing an application on Monday July 1, 2024, a holiday in Guyana, and secured Narine’s counsel’s consent to delay the execution sale to July 4, 2024. Despite the Court of Appeal’s previous refusal to issue a stay, on July 3, 2024, 48 hours after Singh’s filing, the CCJ granted a stay of the execution sale pending the hearing of Singh’s application for leave to appeal. The CCJ’s approach appears to be completely opposite approach to that taken by the Guyana Court of Appeal, since not only did the CCJ decide the application for a stay within hours after the application being made (as opposed to the years taken by the Court of Appeal), but the CCJ granted a stay of the execution proceeding despite the fact that it had not yet granted leave to appeal. By the CCJ granting the stay, Singh’s house will not be sold, the status of quo being preserved pending appeal. This is at least the second time in the last few months that the CCJ has issued orders stopping the Guyana Court proceedings. Singh’s application for leave to appeal will be heard by the CCJ over the next few weeks. Singh is represented by Devindra Kissoon and Natasha Vieira of London House Chambers, with Joseph Harmon as additional counsel.

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