Privy Council to decide legality of JLSC

THE Privy Council in London, England, will now have to determine whether the current composition of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) is legal.

This comes after former agriculture minister minister Devant Maharaj was granted permission by the Court of Appeal at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, to petition the British Law Lords, saying that he had arguable grounds for pursuing the appeal since it one of constitutional and public importance.

Last week Tuesday, Appeal Court justices Allan Mendonca, Nolan Bureaux and Peter Rajkumar over-ruled a judgment previously handed-down by High Court judge Frank Seepersad in which the judge gave the all-clear to Maharaj to carry on with legal proceedings against the composition of the JLSC.


Maharaj is contending that the current composition of the JLSC, the body tasked with advising the President of the appointment of judges, amongst other things, does not compose members required under section 110(3) (b) of the Constitution.

Currently, two retired judges – Roger Hamel-Smith and Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer- are members of the JLSC. However, Maharaj is seeking a declaration that retired judges cannot be appointed members of the JLSC under and/or pursuant to the contentious section of the Constitution.

Section 110(3)(b) of the Constitution states that members of the JLSC shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as follows:

(a) one from among persons who hold or have held office as a Judge of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a Court having jurisdiction in appeal from any such Court;

(b) two from among persons with legal qualifications at least one of whom is not in active practice as such, after the President has consulted with such organisations, if any, as he thinks fit. The claim documents challenge the presence of the two retired judges on the JLSC on the basis that the Constitution does not permit more than one retired judge.

Based on this issue, President Anthony Carmona was prevented from appointing High Court judges Kathy Ann Waterman-Latchoo and Jacqueline Wilson to the High Court Bench based on the advice of the JLSC following the judgment handed down by Justice Seepersad during an emergency hearing.

Even though Seepersad’s ruling was eventually over-turned, Appeal Court justices Gregory Smith, Charmaine Pemberton and Andre Des Vignes unanimously ruled yesterday that Maharaj’s appeal could not be described as unarguable as submitted by Senior Counsel Deborah Peake.

Instead, the court rejected Peake’s submissions that the appeal was frivolous and vexatious and without any merit. It accepted the submissions of Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, who is leading the case for Maharaj, stating that the matter was one of “immense public importance and that the issues raised were both meritorious and arguable.”

Following the ruling, Maharaj told reporters he intended to ask the Privy Council for an expedited hearing of his appeal.

Source: Trinidad Express