Attorney-at-law Lalu Hanuman and his client are at their wits’ end over a land dispute that has been before the court for almost 18 years and is yet to be resolved.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Hanuman described the situation as a “travesty of justice”.
The attorney is representing Shirley Nicholls in a dispute over a section of land at Chapel Gap No. 1 Paynes Bay, St James, which has been in the High Court since 2004. Nicholls’ husband was a former tenant of Merna Howard, the appellant in the civil matter. After her husband’s death, Nicholls continued to live on the property and claimed prescriptive rights, having been there for almost 40 years.
Hanuman explained that the case had been before the Court of Appeal, comprising then Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, then Justice Sandra Mason and Justice Andrew Burgess since April 2014. To date, there has been no judgment forthcoming.
“In the court system in general, it’s been in the High Court since 2004, so this matter has been before the Barbadian courts for 17 years awaiting a final decision…. and the last seven-and-a-half years the matter has been in the Court of Appeal,” Hanuman told Barbados TODAY.
“President Dame Sandra Mason had been the presiding judge in the Court of Appeal along with Sir Marston Gibson and Justice Andrew Burgess, but everybody has moved on elsewhere and my client is still awaiting justice after 17 years. It is beyond ridiculous and my position is nobody should be promoted to higher office until they have given their judgments prior to departing. That is my personal position.”
Hanuman said what made the situation even more ticklish was the fact that Dame Sandra had been elevated to the post of President of Barbados. The attorney said while the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ruled that judges could continue to deliver judgments after they retired, Dame Sandra’s new position could present some challenges.
“The Caribbean Court of Justice has held that they [retired judges] can give their judgments even though they are not judges anymore. Whichever way, there are a number of decisions outstanding. But the CCJ ruled, and this was when she was Governor General, that she was still in a position to give a judgment even though she was no longer sitting at the court,” Hanuman pointed out.
“Personally, I think that breaches the Constitutional Separation of Powers principle very fundamentally, but that is what the CCJ has decided. Whether they will still decide that now that she is President is another matter.”
Back in July 2018, attorney-at-law for the defendant Nicholls wrote to Sir Marston, who was the Chief Justice at the time, querying the status of the matter.
At the time, Dame Sandra was Governor General, and Nicholls had questioned whether a decision was made before she was promoted.
Barbados TODAY has reached out to Attorney General Dale Marshall for comment on the matter.