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On April 27, the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana allowed an appeal made by former president, David Granger.
In part, the judgement states:
“In the circumstances, and for the reasons set out herein, it is Ordered that
a. This Appeal be and is hereby allowed.
b. Action […] be referred to the Hon. Chief Justice for a Judge to be assigned to conduct the PTR and […] for the reasons set out herein, it is Ordered that,
c. At the conclusion of the PTR, that the matter be remitted to the Hon. Mr. Justice Navindra Singh for trial.”
What this ruling means
The ruling means that Justice Navindra Singh will be able to preside at the trial of the lawsuit filed by Former President David Granger, but Justice Singh cannot conduct a pre-trial review (PTR), another judge will have to do that.
In this appeal, the former president (Appellant) had asked that, “By way of this Full Court Appeal, the Appellant seeks to set aside a decision made by the Learned Trial Judge on the 15th June 2022 where he waived the requirement of a Pre-Trial Review (“PTR”)
in Action No. 2021-HC-DEM-CIV-SOC-13
What is this case about?
In early May, 2021, Former President, David Granger had filed a libel lawsuit against communications consultant, Christopher “Kit” Nascimento and media houses including the Guyana Times (GT), Stabroek News (SN), and Kaieteur News (KN). In addition, the lawsuit named GT Editor-in-Chief, Tusika Martin, KN owner Glenn Lall, KN Editor-in-Chief, Sharmain Grainger, and SN Editor-in-Chief, Anand Persaud as respondents.
According to the Statement of Claim (SoC) filed by Senior Council Roysdale Forde, the former Head-of-State, Brigadier David Granger, accused the various media houses of publishing defamatory information about him. Such information were contained in letters and opinion pieces written by Nascimento in 2020. As such, he made 53 claims for damages from Nascimento and the other respondents, of GYD$50 million for each instance that the information was published, totalling GYD$2.65 billion. Granger, in the SoC, also called for apologies, retractions, and other remedies.
According to the SoC filed by SC Forde on behalf of Granger, Nascimento wrote that Granger was complicit in an obvious and determined decision of the APNU+AFC to remain in Government regardless of the expressed will of the people in the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections. Additionally, Nascimento accused Granger of being, “dishonest and deceitful, habitually hypocritical, a liar, of dubious credibility and of unsound mind.” The former president, in the SoC, denied Nascimento’s contentions, and offered counterarguments.
According to the lawsuit, Granger notes that as a result of Nascimento’s actions, his personal and professional reputation and standing have been “irreparably and severely damaged, lowered in the estimation of right-thinking members of society” and that he and his family have suffered and continue to suffer financial injury, constant grave distress, humiliation, embarrassment, indignity, pain, and suffering.
A timeline of the case
May 2021 – Brigadier David Granger sued Christopher Nascimento and several media houses on allegations of libel. 53 claims were made totalling $2.65 billion.
April 28, 2022, a case management conference (CMC) was held by Justice Singh. A CMC is a hearing to decide on trial dates and other procedural matters. On that date Justice Singh had fixed June 15, 2022 to have a pre-trial review (PTR). A PTR is a hearing to determine if the two sides in a case want to settle the matter, or if the sides want to change anything of substance.
NOTE: According to the rules, a PTR should be done by another judge; not the trial judge.
June 15, 2022 – the hearing was held by Justice Singh, and recorded as a PTR.
February 2023 – Granger appeals, asking for a different trial judge because Justice Singh had presided over a PTR in this case. Nascimento’s attorney, Kashir Singh argued that there was no PTR (even though the proceeding was recorded as a PTR).
April 27, 2023 – The full court found – having reviewed the record – that the proceeding of June 15, 2022 was a CMC, not a PTR. As such Justice Singh can preside at the trial, but another justice or judge must preside at any PTR.
NOTE: During the course of the case, Justice Singh had said that a PTR was required, however, he reversed that finding on June 15, 2022, after objections were raised by Brigadier David Granger. This appeal was subsequently filed by Granger to set aside that decision made by Justice Singh.