The Office of the Attorney General will have to wait a while longer before it learns whether or not the Appeal Court has agreed to suspend a recent judgement, which struck down aspects of this country’s colonial-age sedition legislation.
Appellate Judge Alice Yorke-Soo Hon reserved her judgement on the issue after hearing submissions from lawyers for the AG’s Office and relatives of former Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary-general Satnarayan Maharaj, at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday afternoon.
The application to suspend Justice Frank Seepersad’s judgement, pending the determination of the substantive appeal over it, was heard in chamber with only attorneys for the parties being allowed inside.
Guardian Media understands that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi stayed true to his word and chose not to lead his office’s legal team for the hearing, as suggested in jest by one of Maharaj’s lawyers Jagdeo Singh, after Seepersad’s judgement, last month.
In his judgement, Seepersad ruled that the law could not be protected from judicial review under the constitutional savings clause as it is vague, uncertain and can lead to arbitrary application.
He also ruled that the legislation is not compatible with a sovereign democratic state as it limits constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression and freedom of the press.
In its appeal, the AG’s Office has raised 29 grounds of appeal over alleged errors made by Seepersad in his analysis of the case.
Shortly after the judgement, Public Services’ Association (PSA) President Watson Duke applied to have his sedition charge dismissed. Last week, Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle upheld the application.
The sedition charge against Duke related to statements on proposed layoffs at TSTT, T&TEC, and WASA, which he made in a press conference on November 16, 2018.
Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr, is also currently facing a sedition charge over an Eid-ul-Fitr speech at his organisation’s Mucurapo Road mosque on November 4, 2005.
His lawyer Wayne Sturge made a similar application when his case came up for case management, yesterday morning.
However, High Court Judge Maria Wilson adjourned her decision on the issue to next week.
In the event that the AG’s Office is successful in its application, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) may instruct that Duke be recharged and may continue its prosecution of Bakr.
Maharaj’s family is also being represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon and Rhea Khan. The AG’s Office is being represented by Fyard Hosein, SC, Josephina Baptiste-Mohammed and Sean Julien.