Acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George, SC, on Tuesday ruled that President Irfaan Ali’s appointment of the Police Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Patrick Findlay and members of the Integrity Commission (IC) was made constitutionally.
Justice George’s ruling came on the heels of a legal challenge filed by Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, seeking to quash the appointments on the basis that President Ali did not meaningfully consult with him as required under 210 (1) and 232 of the Constitution.
On May 31, the Head of State swore in Findlay as Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and businessmen Ernesto Choo-a-Fat, Hakeem Mohamed, and Attorney-at-Law Lloyd Mark Conway as members.
On the other hand, Chandra Gajraj was sworn in as Chairperson of the Integrity Commission, with Attorney-at-Law Kim Kyte-Thomas, Hardesh Tiwari, Reverend Wayne Chris Bowman, and Mohamed Haniff as members.
In handing down her ruling, the Chief Justice held that Norton was afforded a “reasonable opportunity” to express a considered opinion on the appointments.
“I have concluded that the principle of procedural fairness was satisfied and that the consultation was sufficient,” Justice George noted.
In his Fixed Date Application (FDA), Norton had asked for several declarations and orders, which Justice George refused on the grounds that the President followed the constitutional and statutory regime in his appointments.
The Chief Justice, however, upheld Norton’s argument that the PSC was not properly constituted.
As such, she said the PSC’s Chairman could not have “properly engaged” with President Ali and other Commission members on Clifton Hicken’s appointment to act as Commissioner of Police.
In light of this, Justice George applied the de facto officer doctrine to save all actions taken by the PSC, including the recent promotion of several senior Police officers.
Hicken’s appointment as acting Top Cop remains lawful as the Chief Justice pointed to her August 11 ruling, in which she upheld the appointment made by the President.
On May 13, the Head of State and Norton met for consultation regarding several appointments of constitutional bodies.
The Opposition Leader requested the Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) of the persons put forward for the various agencies, which was provided on May 16.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira, on May 27, invited Norton to continue the consultation on May 30 and asked that if he cannot attend, he should send his additional contributions in writing.
He never did, and the President went ahead with the appointments. Attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde, SC, and Selwyn Pieters represented Norton.
Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, State Counsel Chevy Devonish, and other lawyers led by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall appeared for the State.