Court of Appeal rules that the Government of Grenada as the “visitor” of the Saint George’s University has sole and exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the internal affairs of the University
In Rajiv Gunness v Saint George’s University Limited et al, this Court considered whether the Government of Grenada was a visitor of the University on a proper construction of Article 2 of the Second Schedule of the Saint George’s University Limited Act.
The Court held that having regard to the nature of the visitor’s jurisdiction, the appointment of a visitor must be expressed. No particular form of words is necessary but the intention is to be gleaned from the statute. In interpreting legislative provisions, the court would adopt a purposive interpretation so as to give effect to what is taken to have been intended by Parliament. However, the court has no power to improve upon the instrument which it is called upon to construe; it can only discover what the instrument means. In this connection, the Court found that under Article 2 titled “Visitation Rights”, the parties agreed for the government to be the visitor of the University with full visitation rights with the government determining the person or persons who will exercise the rights on behalf of the government.
In dismissing the appeal, the Court held that a visitor has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the internal affairs of a university. A dispute as to the correct interpretation and fair administration of the domestic laws of the university falls within the jurisdiction of the visitor, therefore the Court usually lacks jurisdiction in the first instance to interfere. However, a decision of the university visitor may be amenable to judicial review as the visitor is susceptible to the supervisory jurisdiction of the court. The dispute in this case being a disciplinary matter and being grounded in the domestic laws of the University, was a matter which fell squarely within the internal management of the University and therefore was a matter within the jurisdiction of the visitor.
In Phillip Brelsford et al v Providence Estate Limited, this Court considered whether land transfer instruments were effective in transferring title to a purchaser, notwithstanding their non-compliance with the registration requirements of section 107 of the Registered Land Act of Montserrat (“the Act”).
The Court held that once registration is effected, it must attract the consequences which the Act attaches to registration, whether the registration was regular or otherwise. As it is the registration and not its antecedents which vests and divests title, the failure by a vendor to execute the land transfer instruments in accordance with section 107 of the Act does not affect the validity of a purchaser’s title. In other words, once a purchaser is registered as a proprietor of a parcel, that purchaser acquires title to that parcel, notwithstanding any irregularity that may have occurred with respect to the vendor. Furthermore, in the absence of fraud or mistake, the conditions for rectification of the register under section 140 of the Act do not arise and the court has no jurisdiction to otherwise order rectification, that is, cancellation or correction of the register.
In the case at bar, the land transfers made in the purchasers’ favour were void as they were not the act of the vendor, but were executed by a person purporting to be the vendors’ representative. Notwithstanding, the void transaction does not give rise to an equitable interest in the property itself, but could however give rise to the equitable right to sue for recovery of the land, and the purchasers as the new registered proprietors of the land would hold their titles subject to this right.
In Alcedo Tyson v The Queen, this Court considered whether section 27(b) of the BVI Jury Act, which gives the Crown the unlimited right to stand-by jurors in criminal proceedings, infringes the equality of arms provision enshrined in section 16 (the fair hearing provision) of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007. At the appellant’s trial the Crown stood-by 21 potential jurors without ascribing any reason. The appellant contended that this was likely to lead the fair-minded observer to find that the selection of an independent and impartial tribunal was biased.
The court held that section 27(b) of the Jury Act is unconstitutional due to the extreme disparity it creates in the jury selection process. The court underscored that the section permits the infringement of the principle of equality of arms by making the defendant’s position extremely weaker than that of the Crown, as a defendant is afforded merely 3 peremptory challenges under the Act. The court found that the Crown’s unlimited right to stand-by jurors was not justifiable in the public interest since section 28 of the Act allows the Crown to challenge a juror for cause if, in the opinion of the presiding judge, it is improper or inadvisable for the juror challenged to be impaneled. Section 28 of the Act therefore safeguards the selection of a competent jury. Consequently, the Crown would not be disadvantaged in the jury selection process by the removal of its unlimited right of stand-by.
In allowing the appeal, the court held that section 27(b) of the Act infringed the appellant’s substantive fundamental right to a fair trial by an impartial court as the perception of bias in the selection process may have resulted in the perception of bias during the trial, and in effect rendered his conviction unsafe.
In the Director of Public Prosecutions et al v Roddy Felix et al this Court considered whether the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions and/or the Commissioner of Police to initiate criminal proceedings is suspended pending the outcome of a coroner’s inquiry in circumstances that bring section 9 of the Coroners Act into play.
The Court examined the relationship between section 71 of the Grenada Constitution Order, 1973 which deals with the DPP’s power to initiate, take over and continue, or discontinue criminal proceedings etc and the Coroners Act. The Court held that both the DPP and the Commissioner have the power to initiate criminal proceedings and that nothing in the Coroners Act postpones or takes away that right. If these officials have to await the outcome of a coroner’s inquest before they can initiate criminal proceedings, it would be a restriction on their powers, and, in the case of the DPP, a breach of section 71 of the Constitution. The Coroners Act contains one of the two ways of initiating criminal proceedings in the case of a suspicious death of a person in custody. It does not shut out or postpone the alternative route of the Commissioner or the DPP exercising their independent power to initiate murder or manslaughter proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court.
The Court also found that the DPP’s powers to initiate, take over and continue, or discontinue criminal proceedings at such times as the DDP sees fit are clearly defined in section 71 of the Constitution. Restricting the DPP’s constitutional power to prosecute criminal offences by an existing law, namely, section 9 of the Coroners Act, would be an improper, if not contrary use of the existing law principle. Section 9 should not be construed by reading into the section a limit on the DPP’s constitutional powers. If anything, the coroner’s mandatory duty under section 9 should be construed as being subject to the DPP’s overarching constitutional power to control criminal proceedings. The power to prevent the DPP and the Commissioner from commencing criminal proceedings was not included in the Coroners Act and that power should not be implied into the Act. Even if the power could be implied into section 9, it would be inconsistent with section 71 of the Constitution and to that extent would be void, or, as an existing law, would be required to be read with such modification as to yield to the provisions of section 71 of the Constitution.