High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armorer
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- High Court Judge Mira Dean-Armorer on Thursday struck out one of six election petitions filed by the opposition United National Congress (UNC) challenging the results in six marginal constituencies of last year’s general election in Trinidad and Tobago.
Delivering an oral judgment in the Port-of-Spain High Court on Thursday, Dean-Armorer upheld an objection from the People’s National Movement (PNM), which said the petition for the La Horquetta/Talparo constituency should be dismissed as the political party was notified of the petition outside the five-day limit prescribed by the Representation of the People Act, the Trinidad Guardian reported.
In its application the PNM claimed that the period began on September 19, 2015, the day after Dean-Armorer granted the UNC leave to pursue their challenge against the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) decision to extend the poll in Trinidad by one hour due to heavy rainfall on election day (September 7, 2015).
However, the UNC said that while it delivered its documents to the assistant high court registrar on the day specified by the PNM, the period for giving notice of the petition started when the documents were stamped and returned to its attorneys two days later as the process could not be done outside the court’s working hours.
In her ruling, Dean-Armorer said while the UNC endeavoured to meet the deadline by approaching the registrar on the weekend, the subsequent administrative delay over the weekend could not extend the strict deadline set by the legislation.
Dean-Armorer’s judgment does not affect the five other petitions, which were filed within the terms prescribed by the legislation, the Guardian reported.
Immediately after the ruling, head of the UNC’s legal team, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan said that the party planned to appeal. Dean-Armorer has set tentative dates for the hearing of the remaining petitions from June 27 to 30.
In its petitions, the opposition party is claiming that the EBC’s returning officers acted illegally when they followed the EBC’s directive to extend the poll, as the commission did not have the power to adjust the 6 am to 6 pm time period for elections. It contends its defeat in the constituencies was marginally affected by the EBC’s decision to extend the polling hours.
The PNM and the EBC had initially challenged Dean-Armourer’s decision to grant the UNC leave to pursue the petitions but her ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Besides the petitions, Dean-Armorer has also been assigned two cases in which three private citizens are challenging the EBC’s decision. Social activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj has filed a judicial review seeking the court’s clarification on whether the EBC had the constitutional power to make the decision.
Irwin Lyne and Melissa Sylvan are claiming that the EBC breached the constitutional rights of Tobagonians by not allowing them an extension. Both cases have been deferred as they would be directly affected by the outcome of Dean-Armorer’s decision on the petitions.