Prisoners' constitutional redress motion...
Court urged to regard self as protector of fundamental rights

Guyana Chronicle
October 3, 2003

Related Links: Articles on judiciary
Letters Menu Archival Menu

JUSTICE Jainarain Singh, who has granted a Nisi Order of Certiorari on the basis of a constitutional motion brought by two prisoners seeking to get the Director of Public Prosecutions to give them trial priority over Mark Benschop's treason case, will entertain further arguments today by lawyers representing the contesting parties.

The judge promised this after veteran lawyer Benjamin Gibson and former Bar Association President, Nigel Hughes, pleaded for the right to intervene on behalf of Mark Benschop, Hazrat Ali and others who are contending that the nisi order granted could result in the closing down of the October Criminal Sessions and further contravene their constitutional right to a fair and early hearing.

Prisoners Kenneth Richardson and Seetal Sookdeo, who are alleging that the DPP cheated them of an early trial in preference to newcomers Mark Benschop and others, brought the motion.

Lawyers Mr. Glen Hanoman and Ms Priya Manickchand, who issued the motion on behalf of the two prisoners, have since filed similar applications on behalf of six other prisoners awaiting trial at the Georgetown prison.

Five of the six other prisoners are Peter John, Phillip Cordis, Michael Joe, Ivor Roberts and Omesh Persaud.

On the resumption yesterday, the judge was to hear arguments from lawyers Mr. Shaun Allicock and Ms Emily Dodson in support of their application on behalf of treason accused Mark Benschop, who wants to be made a third party so that he can look after his rights.

But, before Dodson and Allicock could begin, Mr. Gibson asked permission to represent Benschop by way of affidavits.

The facts upon which these nisi orders were granted on September 26, 2003, by Justice Singh are set out in the respective affidavits of Seetal Sookdeo and Kenneth Richardson.

Nisi Orders of Certiorari were directed to the DPP to show why her decision to present the indictments for trial of certain accused persons before others who were committed after Benschop et al should not be quashed. And Nisi Orders of Prohibition were directed to the DPP to show why she should not be prohibited from presenting the indictments against Benschop et al.

Mr. Ramjattan, representing the DPP, noted that the Nisi Order was erroneous.

Yesterday he told the judge, "An applicant seeking a prerogative remedy must come to a judge through a notice of motion seeking that remedy by itself; moreover, an applicant cannot seek and be granted the nisi of such a writ as an interlocutory order out of a notice of motion for constitutional remedies. This is totally misconceived and constitutes an abuse of the process of the Court. It is tantamount to getting damages out of a divorce petition or, in a constitutional motion for unlawful detention, obtaining the nisi of a writ of habeas corpus."

But Ms. Manickchand contended that Article 153 of the Constitution gives the Court very wide discretion in the matter of framing writs to suit the exigencies of particular cases.

She said the Court should regard itself as the protector and guarantor of fundamental rights and should declare that it cannot consistently, with the responsibility laid upon it, refuse to entertain applications seeking protection against infringements of such rights.

The matter is adjourned to 1.30 p.m. today.