To try prisoners in order or not
-Justice Singh to rule Monday on inmates’ motion Stabroek News

October 4, 2003

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Justice Jainarayan Singh Jnr is expected to rule on Monday on whether prisoners awaiting trial should be tried in strict chronological order.

The issue arose after eight prisoners moved to the courts to stop treason-accused Mark Benschop and other inmates who were charged after them, from being tried before them.

Attorneys Priya Manikchand and Glenn Hanoman, based on a constitutional motion filed in the High Court earlier this week, sought and were granted nisi orders of certiorari, mandamus and prohibition directing the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not be issued to quash her decision to present the indictments for trial of accused persons Leslie Tappin, Gladstone George and Benschop, et al.

Subsequently, in arguments before Justice Singh Jnr, attorney Khemraj Ramjattan - appearing on the DPP’s behalf - contended that the procedure employed by the applicants to obtain the specified reliefs was “wrongly sought, wrong in law and wrongly granted.”

According to Ramjattan, the applicants should not have sought such redress on a constitutional motion but rather by a prerogative writ.

In response, Manikchand yesterday referred to Article 153 of Guyana’s constitution, which indicates that “where a person alleges that any of the provisions of articles 138-151 of the constitution (in which are enshrined the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country) has been, or is likely to be contravened, such person may apply to the High Court for redress. (Further) Article 153 (2) provides that the High Court `may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions, as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcing or securing the enforcement of any of the provisions of articles 138 to 151.’”

Manikchand, in support of her submissions, quoted Article 32 of the Indian Constitution which bears similarity to that of article 153 of the local constitution.

But the Indian Constitution, Ramjattan pointed out, is more precise. Its Article 32 states...”The Supreme Court shall have the power to issue directions or orders or writs in the nature of Habeas Corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warrants and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by this part.”

Meanwhile, the judge has informed Benschop’s legal team - which includes attorneys Benjamin Gibson, Sean Allicock and Emily Dodson - that they may apply to intervene in the ongoing matter by filing a summons on their client’s behalf.

Gibson had initially attempted to make oral submissions but this course was objected to and overruled by the judge.

Sase Narain, the lawyer for Supreme Court Registrar Sita Ramlal, named along with Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh as one of the respondents in the aforementioned application, has been advised to file an affidavit in answer (to the applicants) within 14 days. Narain, speaking briefly to the court, said that his client should not have been named as a respondent in this matter, and noted that the depositions in respect to applicant Kenneth Richardson were prepared since February 12, 2002.

Other applicants named in the constitutional motion include Seetal Sookdeo, Vibert Layne, Phillip Cordis, Omesh Persaud, Ivor Roberts, Michael Joe and Peter John. (Edlyn Benfield)