Constitution allows court to hear Red House case, Nandlall maintains

Attorney Anil Nandlall yesterday argued that by virtue of Article 153 (2) of the Constitution, the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the case brought by the Cheddi Jagan Research Committee Inc (CJRCI), which is challenging the revocation of the lease it holds to Red House.

Current Attorney General Basil Williams SC is contending that the High Court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Nandlall, who is representing the CJRCI, noted in written submissions, which he laid over to the court yesterday, that Article 153(1) provides, among other things, for any person who alleges that any of the provisions of Articles 138 to 151, inclusive, has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him, then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, to apply to the High Court for redress.

Williams previously argued that the affidavit filed by Nandlall failed to fully disclose the material facts of his contention that the lease was “valid, binding and of legal effect.”

He submitted that since CJRCI approached the court ex parte, it was obligated to make material disclosures within its knowledge. He said that it was also required to disclose additional material facts which could have been discovered, had reasonable investigations been made, regarding its case.

Williams noted that it did not disclose, as was required under the Deeds Registry Act, that the 99-year lease was required to be executed in the manner of a transport before the court.  “And if it wasn’t, then it is invalid, ineffectual, and could not be pleadable in any court of justice. In other words, it couldn’t be pleaded in this court,” the AG said.

According to the AG, the non-disclosure of a number of material facts, prevents the court from having jurisdiction to proceed to hear the matter.

Nandlall, however, says that the applicant in this case is an incorporated body and is, therefore, a juridical person recognized by the Constitution. He said that it is the holder of a ninety-nine (99) year lease for a plot of Government land granted by the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys on behalf of the Government of Guyana in respect of Area “A”, now called Red House, comprising 65, 66 and 67 High Street, Kingston, Georgetown.

Counsel for the CJRCI is arguing that it is undisputed that President David Granger has ordered that the lease for the building be revoked. It is in those circumstances, Nandlall said, that the applicant approached the court seeking its protection on the ground that the threatened revocation of its leasehold interest amounts to a deprivation of its property without proper compensation.

Nandlall is asking the court that the matter be ordered to take its normal course.

Williams is contending that the CJRCI never indicated whether the lease was filed as a matter of record in the Registry, which would again mean that it could not be pleaded in any court.

Nandlall has argued, that the issues advanced by Williams deal not with jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, but whether the case has merits or not. He said that they are premature to have been made at this stage of the proceedings.

The case comes up again on March 10, when acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards will rule on the issue of jurisdiction.

Former President Donald Ramotar had previously said that while he was president, he authorized and sanctioned the issuance of the lease of Red House to the CJRCI.

On December 30, 2016, CJRCI secured an order from the court against the government’s revocation of its lease. The consent order operated to freeze the government’s instruction that the High Street premises be vacated by December 31. It sought to restrain the Attorney General and every other officer of the state “from evicting or ejecting or in any way, interfering with the peaceful and quiet occupation and possession of this building by the Cheddi Jagan Research Institute.”

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