Privy Council & General Elections


Barely a few days after the Labour Party held a successful congress at Trianon Centre and laid down its premises for what it considers would make for a reasonable and workable alliance with the other mainstream parties for the next general elections, the Supreme Court issued a judgement in favour of the appeal lodged by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) against the ruling of the Nov 2019 Intermediate Court (IC) dismissing all the charges slapped on Navin Ramgoolam for having allegedly “wilfully and unlawfully” accepted payment in cash in excess of an amount of Rs 500,000 in breach of the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2002 (FIAMLA). Although, in fine, the two SC judges sent the case back to the IC for a retrial, it must have come as something of a cold shower for the LP leadership, particularly so in light of the political context and timing in which the judgement has been delivered.

Legal minds will dwell on the issues that the DPP saw fit to be addressed by the Supreme Court in this case, and it would seem that the option being envisaged by the LP would be an appeal of that retrial decision to the Privy Council, the ultimate court of appeal in our jurisdiction, in the hope of an early trial and a favourable judgement of the Law Lords for Navin Ramgoolam that would take the wind out of the sails of the MSM, which must have seen in the SC judgement an opportunity to finish off Navin Ramgoolam politically. 

Appeals to the Privy Council however can be a double-edged sword. Readers will no doubt recall that the then MSM candidate Ashock Jugnauth case for electoral bribery, for instance, required that the final judgement be delivered by the Law Lords and has become since part of our jurisprudence. Similarly, in the case of the unilateral contract termination of the Red Eagle/Betamax contract, the Law Lords overruled the SC judges who had reversed an initial Intermediate Court and/or international arbitrator ruling in favour of the complainants. Premature celebrations in the ranks of the government at the SC ruling quickly fizzled out and the population has been handed the Rs 6 billion bill to foot for a government/STC decision taken in political circumstances we know.

There is also neither predictability nor certainty in how the more distant abodes of the Law Lords may scrutinise the constitutional and legal issues at stake. In the MedPoint-Pravind Jugnauth case, the ODPP learnt to its dismay that the about-turn of ICAC in this same case contributed, as acknowledged by the Law Lords themselves, to their reversing a lower court judgement. In normal circumstances, however, it could be expected that the Privy Council would only examine, based on their interpretation of the law (the FIAMLA, in the case DPP v Navin Ramgoolam), whether the Supreme Court came to wrong conclusions in law (see LEX, Page 4) or in their decision to call for what could be a lengthy retrial.

Timing is of the essence in this matter, especially so in view of the forthcoming general elections and the political context in which the offence/s allegedly committed by Navin Ramgoolam will be debated and canvassed on public platforms, including on social media. The longer it would take for a final judgement to be delivered ultimately by the Privy Council, the better it would suit the propaganda of the MSM, which is more effectively waged on soap boxes with the help of technology for the projection of visually damaging pictures/videos rather than in courtrooms. Such visuals are not just hearsay, they are visually damaging to a brand – commercial or even political. Sometimes a brand can recover from a disaster, but sometimes not, commented a correspondent of this paper in an earlier post. The people are ultimately the only judge in such matters.

While we are on the topic of legal decisions that may affect the timing of general elections, it would be foolhardy to ignore the potential repercussions from a successful appeal to the Law Lords in the Suren Dayal electoral petition. Many legal specialists believe there is a real case for the Law Lords to clarify the main issues in our laws and Constitution regarding either the freewheeling campaign promises or the abuses of the MBC during peak-time election coverage that such a judgement could risk entailing. It bears pointing out that this is merely a risk to the returned candidates in Constituency No8, but nonetheless a major one, a Damoclean sword over their heads, given the fact that the PM and his two colleagues are personally concerned.

Would the MSM decide to gamble on that Privy Council outcome, which is likely to be heard with some priority, and stick with a normal election schedule end 2024 remains to be seen. What is clear is that with an LP leader back under a cloud with the SC’s judgement and an Opposition still far from offering a united front, there will be a strong temptation for Pravind Jugnauth to call for earlier general elections, in particular before either of these two cases are heard out and judgement delivered by the Privy Council. Challenging times ahead, therefore.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 2 September 2022

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *