“Can you imagine a judgment in this case being issued a few weeks or months after the hearing?”

Navin Ramgoolam’s Electoral Petition

Qs & As

* ‘The question is not about whether it was cowardice or not on his part to withdraw his petition; realism prevailed and rightly so’


There have been political comments and accusations bandied following Navin Ramgoolam’s withdrawal of his electoral petition against the 2019 results declared in No. 10 constituency on grounds that account for previous rulings of the Supreme Court in similar petitions and the inordinate time it would take for an appeal to the Privy Council. Consequently he and the LP feel it better to concentrate on Suren Dayal’s petition which is already at the Law Lords based on many similar grounds. We have asked Lex to share the legal perspective and rationale behind this decision and comment on the long-drawn-out process for electoral petitions even to be heard.

* Labour Party leader Navin Ramgoolam was saying until the other day that the last general elections were not free nor fair, yet he went on last week to withdraw his petition contesting the election of the three candidates of the Alliance Morisien in the November 2019 in Constituency No. 10 (Montagne Blanche/Grande Riviere Sud-Est). That may send a wrong and rather confusing political message. What’s your take on that?

There is no doubt that Navin Ramgoolam took a political risk in withdrawing his petition after making serious allegations on the conduct of the 2019 elections. But at the same time, and this is an aspect that demagogues will not consider, he was realistic in doing so in the light of the judgments already delivered on almost the same issues he has raised in his petition. The question is not about whether it was cowardice or not on his part to withdraw his petition; realism prevailed and rightly so.

* Beyond the politics of such a decision, are there good reasons from a legal perspective to justify the withdrawal of the electoral petition?

Of course. It is open to any party to withdraw a case he has entered. There is nothing sinister about this. This is not cowardice. A party has the absolute right to withdraw his case if his lawyers, as responsible professionals, advise him to do so in the light of developments that have occurred since the case was filed.

* Navin Ramgoolam said that there are a lot of similarities in both his case and that of Suren Dayal, which has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. If these similarities do exist, is it likely that a different bench of the Court would have decided along the same line as the judges that sat on the Dayal’s case?

 One of the points Navin Ramgoolam raised in his petition relates to the presence of computers.

What did the Supreme Court have to say on this point in the Jhuboo case? The Court found that the failure of the Electoral Commission to inform candidates about the presence of computers at the counting centres did not call for a recount in the absence of any valid ground for a recount of the ballot papers, as there had not been any irregularity, discrepancy, mistake, misconduct of “such a nature as would justify a recount”.

The court also found that the computer room did not form an integral part of the counting process and concluded that the figures fed in the computers had nothing to do with the manual counting of the votes.

Can any right-thinking member of the public to whichever party he belongs to realistically believe that another bench would have reached a different conclusion?

Navin Ramgoolam also raised a number of other matters in relation to the transport of ballot papers, disorder on counting day, irregularities in the electoral registers, unsealed ballot boxes. All these are matters of facts that the Court would have had to assess. But it is most likely the court would have found against Navin Ramgoolam on all these points.

Navin Ramgoolam was therefore perfectly right and wise to withdraw his petition.

* The LP leader also said that an eventual appeal to the Privy Council against an unfavourable judgement of the Supreme Court in his own case would most likely be determined not before 2024, that is the year when the next general elections will probably be held. That would defeat the purpose of his petition, he argued. Does he have a point there?

Can you imagine a judgment in the Ramgoolam case being issued a few weeks or months after the hearing?

It took the Court almost a year from the hearing and almost 33 months from the last general elections to deliver the judgment in the Dayal case. Most probably the same thing would have happened in the Ramgoolam case. By the time the case would have been heard, judgment delivered and an appeal to the Privy Council heard, it’s probable that the next elections would have been held and a new government elected to power. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 14 October 2022

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