PUBLIC Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke wants his August 2019 sedition charge dropped because of the striking down of sections 3 and 4 of the act as unconstitutional.
Duke’s attorney John Heath made the application before Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle when the Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) returned to the Port of Spain Eight Magistrates’ Court on Monday for a status hearing of the case against him.
The sedition charge against Duke relates to statements he made on proposed lay-offs at three public utilities in November 2018.
Last week, Justice Frank Seepersad struck down the sections of the act because it was “vague, uncertain and can lead to arbitrary application.”
Quoting from sections of Seepersad’s judgment, Heath told the chief magistrate the effect of the ruling was that no one could be charged with the offence of sedition. He also said because of that, the court could not receive statements from the prosecution since the High Court has pronounced that those sections of the law were unconstitutional. He said the court’s ruling in the Satnaryan Maharaj and Central Broadcasting Service case before Seepersad was no different than if Duke had filed a constitutional challenge in his case.
He said there were two options for the court, the first being to discharge Duke, after which the State could always refile charges against him after an appeal of Seepersad’s ruling had been determined. The second option was to discharge Duke and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) could appeal that.
Heath maintained that the High Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the sedition laws. “The law is not good law. It is unconstitutional and the police cannot charge anyone,” he said, adding that the greater prejudice lies with Duke who is the leader of the largest union in TT as well as the minority leader of the THA.
“He will have the sedition charge hanging over his head. For how long?” he said, pointing out that the State’s appeal of Seepersad’s judgment had not yet been filed.
Senior State attorney Mauricia Joseph asked for time to respond to Heath’s application. Earlier, she mentioned Seepersad’s decision and an appeal of it was expected to be filed so an adjournment was being asked for to determine how to proceed with the case against Duke.
The matter will come up again for hearing next Monday when the Office of the DPP will indicate its position and respond to the application to have Duke discharged.
The PSA president is also represented by Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson.