Appeal Court to rule on sedition law on Friday

Sat Maharaj
Sat Maharaj

ON FRIDAY, the Court of Appeal is expected to deliver a ruling on the status of Trinidad and Tobago's sedition laws.

In January last year, Justice Frank Seepersad held that parts of the law were unconstitutional.

A month later, the Appeal Court temporarily suspended Seepersad’s orders, which left the sedition laws in effect and enforceable until it heard the appeal of the Attorney General.

The Office of the Attorney general filed that appeal after Seepersad refused to grant the State's application for its suspension immediately after his ruling on January 13.

Seepersad had ruled that sections 3 and 4 of the Sedition Act, which came into effect in 1920, were not in conformity with the Constitution, as they imposed disproportionate and unjustified restrictions on citizens’ free speech, expression and thought. The judge also held that the act infringed on the right to freedom of the press.

After the ruling, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said it was “dangerous” and would be appealed all the way to the Privy Council in England.

A week after Seepersad’s ruling, the State filed 29 grounds of appeal.

An additional five grounds were relied on relating to a substitution order in which the judge allowed Vijay Maharaj, the son of the late Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Sat Maharaj, to replace his father as a claimant in the proceedings that ended in Seepersad’s judgment striking down the sedition laws.

In his ruling, Seepersad found sections 3 and 4 of the Sedition Act patently inconsistent and at odds with Section 1 of the Constitution.

The ruling meant that people could no longer be charged with sedition.

The ruling brought a halt to a preliminary inquiry against Watson Duke, who was charged with sedition over statements he made during a protest at TSTT in 2018. Duke was successful in having a charge of sedition against him discontinued by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle Caddle in the Port of Spain Court.

Sat Maharaj and his media company, Central Broadcasting Services Ltd, filed the constitutional claim after Maharaj made certain statements on his Maha Sabha Strikes Back programme on TV Jaagriti on April 15, 2019. He said citizens living in Tobago were lazy and the men were rapists.

Maharaj’s attorneys, led by Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, are expected to hold a virtual media conference after the Court of Appeal's decision on Friday.

In a release issued ahead of the ruling, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said the court’s decision will affect human and fundamental rights in Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of how it rules. He also said the ruling can be appealed at the Privy Council.


"Appeal Court to rule on sedition law on Friday"

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