13-year-old's posting to NOC-
Judge to rule on A.G.'s challenge Monday
By George Barclay
June 19, 2004
JUSTICE Yonette Cummings-Edwards will decide on Monday whether or not to issue the declaration sought by Attorney General Mr. Doodnauth Singh, S.C. to declare unconstitutional, null and void, a judge's order to send a 13-year-old girl to the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) for protection.
Yesterday, after listening to arguments from Mr. Singh and attorney-at-law Mr. Nigel Hughes, who is seeking intervention in the proceedings on behalf of Bibi Shameeza Hamid, the mother of 13-year-old Bibi Natalia Hamid, the subject of a habeas corpus case, Justice Cummings-Edwards reserved her ruling for Monday at 3 p.m. (15:00 hrs)
The intervention of the Attorney General with the Constitutional Motion has its genesis in a habeas corpus case brought by Bibi Shameeza Hamid, seeking to have businessman Reeaz Khan produce her daughter Bibi Natalia Hamid in Court. The girl was allegedly in Khan's custody.
The girl was produced in Court, but during the hearing, the judge, Mr. Beasraj S. Roy, ordered that the child be placed in the custody of her mother and her maternal aunt. It is said that she escaped from their custody.
Following reports that the girl with assistance from Khan had flouted the Court's order, Justice Roy made another order, which resulted in the child being sent to the New Opportunity Corps for protection until the habeas corpus hearing, and the contempt proceedings arising therefrom, were heard and determined.
Attorney General Mr. Doodnauth Singh, who had intervened in the interest of the public, had objected to the child being sent to the NOC because of the stigma attached thereto. He advised that she be sent to one of the orphanages or children's homes in the country.
This advice did not find favour with the judge, and the girl was sent to the New Opportunity Corps.
Continuing his arguments yesterday, the Attorney General made it clear that he did not intervene on behalf of the girl Natalia, but as the legal guardian of the Constitution. Mr. Singh said that he had intervened because a section of the Constitution had been contravened, and he wanted to put it right.
He cited examples of habeas corpus cases to prove that the object of the habeas corpus proceedings was to have the girl produced. Singh declared that after the girl was produced, that was the end of the matter.
The judge, the Attorney General said, went further than the application asked for and decided to make other orders.
Referring to himself as the legal guardian of the Constitution and the Judiciary, Mr. Singh cited a number of legal authorities that gave the Attorney General the right to intervene in matters not pertaining to the state, as long as the Constitution was involved.
One of the examples cited was that of Durity - a Guyana case, in which the then Chancellor Keith Massiah had decided along the same lines that he (the Attorney General) was advocating.
Attorney-at-law Mr. Nigel Hughes in reply accused the Attorney General of shifting from his original stand by saying that he was not intervening on behalf of the girl but that he was doing so because the Constitution was being violated.
That, said Mr. Hughes, made it quite clear that the Attorney General did not have any locus standi, since the Constitution did not give him the right he had assumed.
Hughes disagreed with the assertion that the Attorney General was the legal guardian of the Constitution. On the contrary, Hughes pointed out, it was the Judiciary, which was the legal guardian of the Constitution.
Mr. Hughes also argued that the A. G. could rightly appear in a matter in the public interest, but not as a guardian of the Constitution. If, as he said, he was not representing the child, then his only recourse was to appeal the decision of Justice Roy's order, which was not a final order.
Hughes, who had been asking the Court for permission to intervene, a right which the A.G. said Hughes did not have, also submitted that the Court should either give the mother of the child the right to intervene in the hearing of the Constitutional motion, or dismiss the motion.
At this stage, the judge announced that she would deliver her ruling at 3 p.m. on Monday.
As happened at the previous hearings, yesterday's session attracted a number of spectators. However, Justice B.S. Roy, who was reportedly invited to attend, was not present.