Lawyers representing Public Services Association (PSA) President Watson Duke have sought to have a sedition charge against him dismissed.
Duke’s lawyer John Heath made the application as his client reappeared before Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court, yesterday morning.
Heath referred to a 51-page judgement from Justice Frank Seepersad, who struck down segments of the Sedition Act for being unconstitutional, last week.
“No one can be charged with the offence as of today,” Heath said, as he referred to excerpts of Seepersad’s judgement.
Responding to Heath, State prosecutor Mauricia Joseph noted that the judgement is being appealed by the Office of the Attorney General, as she asked for an adjournment for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to arrive at a position on the issue.
Heath suggested that the proposed appeal should not be an impediment to making a decision on the application as Duke could be rearrested and recharged if the State manages to convince the Court of Appeal and Privy Council to overturn it.
He claimed that his client, who is also the Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), was being prejudiced as the pending charge would be in a state of abeyance during the appeals.
Busby-Earle-Caddle eventually deferred her decision on the issue and adjourned the case to next Monday for additional submissions from the DPP’s Office.
The sedition charge against Duke relates to statements on proposed layoffs at TSTT, T&TEC, and WASA, which he made in a press conference on November 16, 2018.
Duke, who also has pending charges for rape, indecent assault, and disorderly conduct, was placed on $250,000 after being charged in August, last year.
The sedition case before Seepersad was brought by former Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary-general Satnarayan Maharaj before his death in November, last year.
In his judgement, Seepersad ruled the legislation is not compatible with a sovereign democratic state as it limits constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression and freedom of the press.
Duke is also being represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC.