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Election candidate sues over ‘overdue’ election appeal

by Emmanuel Joseph
3 min read
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A fringe political party’s candidate in the 2022 poll has filed a constitutional motion against the state over delays in hearing an election appeal. He claims voters under COVID-19 quarantine were disenfranchised.

Phillip Nathaniel Catlyn was a candidate for the Sovereignty Party in the St Thomas constituency in the January 19 2022 poll.

The motion, lodged in the High Court on Thursday by Catlyn’s lawyer, Lalu Hanuman, seeks vindicatory damages among other remedies. Catlyn is also seeking further relief as deemed fit by the court.

He argues that thousands of electors then quarantined for COVID were deprived of their rights because the Electoral and Boundaries Commission made no provision for them to vote. The Chief Justice and Attorney General are named as defendants.

Catlyn is seeking a declaration that there has been an unreasonable delay in hearing an urgent appeal he filed on February 2, 2022 against a ruling by Justice Cecily Chase. She had dismissed an earlier appeal calling for judicial review of the President’s decision to issue election writs before ensuring quarantined people could vote.

The claimant contends the delay breaches the Constitution of Barbados and a six-month time limit for judges to deliver decisions. He cites an October 11, 2022 application by respondents to strike out his appeal, the hearing of which concluded on April 26, 2023 with the court reserving judgment.

“To date, despite the lapse of well over two years, this urgent appeal is still outstanding. Furthermore, it is over one year since the decision on the respondents’ application has been outstanding,” the claimant declared in his court filings made available to Barbados TODAY.

“This urgent appeal,” he contended, “is of national importance, but instead of it being expedited, it has been left to languish in flagrant breach of Articles 11(c) and 18(8) of the Constitution, and also in breach of the six-month timeline in Article 84(3)(c) of the Constitution, as amended.”

Section 18(8) of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, governing the independence and impartiality of the court, affords citizens the right of a “fair hearing within a reasonable time”. Under Section 84, a judge may be removed from office “only for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour”.

Catlyn’s motion represents a fresh test for how such conflicts between constitutional rules and proper judicial processes will be resolved. The delays highlighted by his filing also come amid ongoing concerns about case backlogs, lengthy delays and shortages of judicial resources.

Vindicatory damages are a relatively rare remedy awarded to complainants of constitutional rights violations or other legal wrongs. The damages are intended to recognise the inherent value of the violated right, beyond any compensation for specific losses or damages.

The chief justice now has the task of assigning the case to a judge to set a hearing date for the constitutional motion.

emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb

 

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