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Ramesh prepared to fight appeals in sedition ruling

Senior counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is congratulated by Vijay Maharaj, son of late secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj.   - KEINO SWAMBER
Senior counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is congratulated by Vijay Maharaj, son of late secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj. - KEINO SWAMBER

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, on Monday, said he intends to meet, head on, any appeals to the Court of Appeal and Privy Council, of the ruling of Justice Frank Seepersad who declared certain parts of the Sedition Act unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.

Speaking with reporters after the ruling at the Hall of Justice, Maharaj said the ruling was a victory for the late Satnarayan Maharaj – former secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha who initiated a lawsuit before he died at the age of 88 on November 16 last year after suffering a stroke.

At a press conference hours after the ruling, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the State will move swiftly to appeal Seepersad’s ruling.

Maharaj said the legal team which includes Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, Kavita Roop-Boodoo and Rhea Khan, will demonstrate to the Court of Appeal that such an appeal will be frivolous and not likely to succeed at the Privy Council.

“What should happen now, is both the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions should ensure that all prosecutions which were instituted under this act, are stayed to abide by the decision of either the Court of Appeal or the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.”

Those recently charged under the act were Public Services Association president Watson Duke, leader of the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, and former president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Michael Seales, who was tried and acquitted.

Maharaj said, “We are prepared to fight this battle to the end to defend the right to the freedom of speech and to defend democracy.”

He added, the case also highlights the importance of the Judiciary as the guardian of the rights of the people.

“When we got independence, and when we became a republican state, the Constitution gave to the courts the importance and the duty to protect the rights of the people.”

He said Maharaj (Satnarayan) should be congratulated for taking action against a law which impinged on people’s freedom of expression.

The late Maha Sabha head’s son, Vijay Maharaj, said his father’s legacy will always be one of fighting for people and not for himself.

Also weighing in on the ruling was political leader of the Movement for Social Justice, David Abdulah, who called for the immediate repeal of the act.

“It is an unjust piece of legislation as its history clearly proves.”

In a statement on Monday, Abdulah said Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith should focus on violent crimes, corruption and other major criminal activity and not engage in the criminalisation of protest.

“The MSJ warns, yet again, that when legitimate protests are repressed, the result can only be a more dangerous type of action as citizens are left with few options to express their dissatisfaction.”

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