Privy Council releases written judgment on St. Kitts-Nevis electoral boundaries appeal case

Team Unity opposition members Mark Brantley, Dr. Timothy Harris and Sam Condor had appealed to the Privy Council to have an injunction placed on the use of new electoral boundaries that were passed into law on January 16, 2015, under controversial circumstances.

Having their submissions overturned in the High Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeals, lawyers representing the opposition members took the matter to the Privy Council, which heard the submissions just hours away from the February 16 General Elections. The Privy Council then ruled that the General Elections must be held on the old electoral boundaries.

Today, they provided written reasons for its decision.

The case is docked as the ‘Privy Council Appeal No 0028 of 2015, Judgment Brantley and others (Appellants) v Constituency Boundaries Commission and other (Respondents) (St. Christopher and Nevis).

The document indicates several reasons for the Council’s February decision to impose the use of the old boundaries for the General Elections of St. Kitts and Nevis, and they were based on the country’s governing laws.

The Board concludes that the boundaries proclamation had not come into force by the time of the general election on 16 February 2015, and therefore did not govern that election. Under section 50(6) of the Constitution the proclamation would only come into force upon the next dissolution of Parliament after it had been “made”. How a proclamation is “made” is set out in section 119; it must be published in the Gazette. Merely producing a hard copy of the text of a Gazette does not amount to publication. The boundaries proclamation was made no earlier than 20 January 2015 when the Gazette became available to the public. The Governor-General dissolved the National Assembly with effect from 16 January 2015, which dissolution pre-dated the publication of the boundaries proclamation. Therefore, the boundaries proclamation will not have effect (if otherwise valid) until the dissolution of the current Parliament elected on 16 February 2015,” states a summary of the judgment.

The time of publication of the government’s gazette was central to the Appellants’ case, as described by one of the appellants’ lawyers. On this matter, the 11-page judgment states, “The question is: when was the impugned proclamation published in the Gazette?

“23. The answer to that question lies in the unchallenged evidence adduced by the appellants. In particular, the Hon Sam Condor, the third appellant, records in an affidavit (dated 21 January 2015) that when on 19 January 2015 he approached the Government Information Service Department, which is the government department responsible for distributing the Gazette, he was informed by responsible officials that there was as yet no published Gazette for 2015.

“On the following afternoon, when he again asked for Gazettes published in 2015, officials gave him the impugned proclamation, which was published as Extra Ordinary Gazette No 3 of 2015, and the proclamation dissolving Parliament, which was Extra Ordinary Gazette No 3A of 2015. The attorney, Mr. DeLara MacClure Taylor, also gave evidence in an affidavit that the Government Information Service Department was the only department responsible for distributing the Gazette to the public. On visits to that department on both 19 January 2015 and on the morning of 20 January 2015 officials told him that there were no Gazettes published in 2015. On his first visit an official told him that the most recent Gazette was Gazette No 56 of 2014, which had been published on 11 December 2014.

“24. It follows, in the Board’s view, that the impugned proclamation was made no earlier than 20 January 2015 when it became available to the public by publication in the Gazette on the authority of the Governor-General. The proclamation dissolving Parliament was published at the same time. In that proclamation (which, like the impugned proclamation, was erroneously stated to be published on 16 January 2015) the Governor-General dissolved the Parliament “as from the 16 day of January, 2015”.

“That dissolution, which unquestionably occurred with effect from 16 January, predated the “making” of the impugned proclamation. As a result, the impugned proclamation, if valid, will have effect only on the dissolution of the Parliament that was elected on 16 February 2015 (section 50(6).”

The written judgment was provided from the deliberations of Lord Mance Lord Kerr Lord Clarke Lord Reed and Lord Hodge, and was delivered today, 11th May 2015.

 

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