The Office of the Attorney General has filed its appeal over High Court Judge Frank Seepersad’s decision to strike down aspects of this country’s colonial-age sedition legislation.
In its notice of appeal, filed in the Appeal Court Registry on Monday, lawyers representing the AG’s Office raised 29 grounds on which it felt that Seepersad’s controversial decision, delivered last Monday, should be overturned.
In the substantive appeal, the AG’s Office is contending that Seepersad erred in law when he invalided sections 3 and 4 of the legislation for being vague, uncertain and ambiguous.
It also claimed that Seepersad did not properly analyse the principles that inform the rule of law when he decided that the legislation breached it.
As a secondary issue in the appeal, the AG’s Office filed five separate grounds on which it felt that Seepersad got it wrong when he permitted Vijay Maharaj, the son of former Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary-general Satnarayan Maharaj, to be substituted as claimant in the lawsuit after his father’s death in November, last year.
It claimed that Seepersad’s decision was unreasonable as Maharaj’s case became academic upon his death as he could no longer be prosecuted under the legislation.
In the lawsuit, Maharaj’s lawyers contended that the legislation, which was passed in 1920 and amended several times, between 1961 and 1976, breached citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association and assembly.
They claimed that Section 3 and 6 of the legislation, which defines a seditious intention and the publication of such, is unpredictable and allows for discrimination.
In upholding the claim, Seepersad agreed to bypass the Constitution’s saving clause, which precludes it from judicial interpretation except in scenarios when it can be found incompatible with its provisions, as he ruled that it could not apply because of the vagueness of the law.
Maharaj filed the lawsuit after police executed search warrants on the SDMS’s media house Central Broadcasting Services after Maharaj made a series of incendiary statements on his Maha Sabha Strikes Back programme on TV Jaagriti on April 15, last year.
Maharaj claimed that citizens living in Tobago are lazy and labelled the men as rapists.
While no criminal charges were eventually brought against him and he suggested that such was inevitable while addressing supporters during SDMS Indian Arrival Day celebrations.
Lawyers representing Public Services Association (PSA) President Watson Duke have applied to have a sedition charge against him dismissed based on the judgement. Duke’s application is expected to be determined by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle, on Monday.