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Guyana: Court of Appeal rules it has jurisdiction to interpret Constitution

BY a 2-1 margin, the Court of Appeal ruled that it had jurisdiction to interpret the words “more votes are cast” in Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution in a case brought against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and others by a North Sophia voter, Eslyn David, who had challenged the Commission’s failure to determine a final credible count.

In its original constitutional jurisdiction conferred by Article 177(4) of the Constitution, David, last Thursday (June 18), asked the Appellate Court to interpret the words “more votes are cast” in Article 177 (2) (b). On Monday, the ruling was handed down in the Court of Appeal by a panel of three judges with Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory and High Court Judge, Justice Brassington Reynolds ruling that the Court has jurisdiction to interpret Article 177 (2) (b) as provided for in Article 177 (4). However, Justice of Appeal, Rishi Persaud ruled that the application was premature, misconceived and ought to have been thrown out.

Article 177(4) of the Constitution states: “The Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as that question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of the Constitution; and any decision of that Court under this paragraph shall be final.”

In handing down his ruling, Justice Reynolds referenced the case – Eusi Kwayana’s Application (1980) which was relied upon by both the appellant, through her battery of lawyers, and the added respondents – People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) General-Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP/C Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali and others – though offering different interpretation.

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