SODELPA, NFP Lawyers Given Time to Advertise Election Petition

The Suva Court of Disputed Returns has given time to SODELPA and the Na­tional Federation Party lawyers to advertise the election petition, which was to be served to the 27
14 Dec 2018 11:21
SODELPA, NFP Lawyers Given Time to Advertise Election Petition

The Suva Court of Disputed Returns has given time to SODELPA and the Na­tional Federation Party lawyers to advertise the election petition, which was to be served to the 27 FijiFirst Members of Parliament and FijiFirst candidate Faiyaz Koya, in the two newspapers to­day.

Present in court yesterday were the lawyers representing SODEL­PA’s Sitiveni Rabuka and NFP leader Biman Prasad – Jon Apted from Munro Leys and Filimoni Vo­sarogo from Mamlakha Lawyers.

The Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma represented the Super­visor of Elections Mohammed Saneem and lawyer Devanesh Sharma was present in court on the instructions of the FijiFirst Party General Secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Lawyer Nilesh Prasad represent­ed the Electoral Commission.

The case:

SODELPA and NFP are challeng­ing the conduct, count and tallying of the results of the 2018 General Election.

Day 2 in Court:

The matter was called in the Court of Disputed Returns before Justice Anjala Wati and Justice Kamal Kumar.

More than 50 Police officers were seen at the premises of the High Court in Suva for the hearing of the matter.

Mr Vosarogo had made an ap­plication for substitutive serving of the elections petition as they were not able to serve the petition to the 27 FijiFirst Members of Par­liament and FijiFirst candidate Faiyaz Koya and stated that the re­spondents had evaded during the 24 hour period given by court on Tuesday.

Mr Vosarogo said that they tried through their bailiff to serve the elections petition to the Fiji­First parliamentarians who are respondents in the case, but the respondents had evaded them by locking themselves in at Suvavou House.

He said that the court orders on Tuesday were that the respond­ents’ names would be struck out if they cannot serve the petition within 24 hours and said they had only served the Supervisor of Elec­tions Mohammed Saneem.

Justice Wati and Justice Kumar jointly in their ruling said there was no evidence that the respond­ents had evaded, but the court has to look at the larger interest of jus­tice and they have noted the con­cerns of the petitioners raised in court yesterday.

The judges said that they grant the application for the petition to be advertised in the Fiji Sun and the Fiji Times today.

Justice Kumar said that because of time constraints, they may sit in the weekends too. He also said that they may have the hearing next Saturday, and told the lawyers to forget about their holidays and vacations in order to ensure the court heard the case before the end of the 21-days period.

Mr Sharma, who was in court on the instructions of FijiFirst Gen­eral Secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khai­yum, informed the court that one of the respondents is out of the country, which is the Prime Minis­ter Voreqe Bainimarama.

Mr Sharma said that while the court has made the order for the petition to be advertised in the newspapers, the petitioners should be aware that one of them is out of the country.

“This is the period that the par­ties have chosen to file the matter and everyone should have known it.

“The idea is they want all parties to be in court in the interest of jus­tice.

“The service by advertisement will be done tomorrow (Friday) so Mr Bainimarama is advised about it,” Mr Sharma said.

Justice Wati said that the burden was still on Mr Vosarogo and his clients to serve the 28 respondents in the matter.

She also asked Mr Vosarogo on whether they want to advertise the petition for the respondents to which he responded yes.

Mr Sharma said the court had made an order on Tuesday that if personal service is not achieved in 24 hours, the respondents would be struck off the list.

“The 24 hour service period was raised on Tuesday, nobody in court had objected to it. The court’s or­der should stand.”

Mr Sharma also highlighted that no formal application was made for substitutive serving.

He said the court cannot continue to show leniency and asked the court to move on and deal with other matters.

Solicitor General Mr Sharma, who is representing the Supervi­sor of Elections, confirmed that Mr Saneem was served with the petition.

He also highlighted to the court that the court had made the or­der that the respondents would be struck out if they are not served in 24 hours.

He said the court already lost four days going into the fifth day of the 21 days period as the court has to make the final decision in the case within 21 days after the petition is filed.

“They chose to name 29 respond­ents and I do not see any evidence why personal service has not tak­en place,” Mr Sharma said.

Mr Vosarogo responded that what they have is based on the difficul­ty that the petitioners had to go through and they are revisiting the application they had made.

Mr Sharma said that there is no proper evidence to show that there has been evasion and it is not evi­dent before the court.

The matter was adjourned for di­rections on answers to be filed and to check on the affidavit filed with the newspaper advertisements to Monday, December 17 at 10am.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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