Two appeals to be filed over 2012 budget cuts case

Two different appeals in relation to the 2012 budget cuts case will be filed with the Guyana Court of Appeal.

“Because the leader of the opposition was excluded, the process was flawed,” leader of APNU David Granger who is also leader of the Opposition, told Stabroek News. As he was not given an opportunity to respond in a matter in which he was a key player, Granger said, they can appeal acting Chief Justice Ian Chang’s decision to exclude him from the 2012 budget cuts case. “The whole thing was quite bizarre,” he said.

Granger had previously gone to the Full Court but it ruled that it had no jurisdiction to deal with Justice Chang’s decision to strike him out as a defendant in the case. On June 19 last year, Justice Chang struck out Granger and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh as defendants in the 2012 budget cuts case on the ground that they are parliamentarians and can’t be sued. This left Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman as the sole defendant.

Granger’s lawyers had indicated that they plan to appeal and if need be are prepared to move to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Meantime, leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan said that his party will be moving shortly to the Court of Appeal on Justice Chang’s ruling. The grounds of appeal are currently being formulated, he said.

On Wednesday, delivering his long-awaited final decision, Justice Chang declared that the National Assembly acted “unlawfully and unconstitutionally” by effecting cuts to the 2012 budget estimates, after finding that its power is limited to either giving or withholding approval. According to Justice Chang, while the Assembly may approve or not approve the Finance Minister’s estimates of expenditure, it has no power to change them by either reducing or increasing them. “The power to amend may involve the power to approve. But a power to approve does not imply a power to amend,” he wrote in his decision on a challenge to the cuts that was brought to the court by Attorney-General Anil Nandlall.

‘We feel confident that the Court of Appeal will uphold the constitutionality of reductions and cuts or amendments to a Budget,” Ramjattan said. “Of course I notice the Speaker has intimated that he would want the Assembly to determine the question as to whether to appeal,” the AFC leader noted.

On Thursday, a statement from Parliament Office said that while Justice Chang’s ruling is to be respected, it remains subject to the right of appeal and it is for the National Assembly to determine and direct the way forward.

Ramjattan said he believes this will be done at the next sitting of the Assembly.

In June of 2012, Nandlall moved to the court to seek reliefs after APNU and the AFC, using their combined one-seat majority in the National Assembly, moved to reduce the estimates by $21 billion. Similar cuts were effected last year. The opposition had cited a lack of transparency and accountability in the explanations for the cuts to the allocations.

Although President Donald Ramotar later assented to the budget passed by the National Assembly, Nandlall subsequently moved to the courts to reverse the cuts.

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