The Law Lords have reserved judgment in the appeal lodged by Suren Dayal, the defeated Labour candidate in constituency No 8 (Moka/Quartier-Militaire), against the decision of the Supreme Court of Mauritius to reject his election petition.
The session ended shortly after 6.30pm on Monday 10 July. Counsels’ submissions began in London at 2pm before the five Law Lords, David Lloyd Jones, Philip James Sales, Nicholas Archibald Hamblen, Sir Ben Stephens, and Dame Sue Lascelles Carr.
According to many, the judgment may be delivered very soon as the Privy Council is in recess in August.
“The act of corruption has not been established”. These were the words of Mr Guy Vassall-Adams, representing the Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, on Monday afternoon, 10 July. He was addressing the Law Lords of the Privy Council during the first part of his speech, just before the break.
Suren Dayal is contesting the elections of Pravind Jugnauth, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun and Yogida Sawmynaden. Guy Vassal-Adams stated that the Supreme Court of Mauritius “was right” to reject the election petition. The lawyer also returned to his interpretation of Section 64 of the Representation of the People Act, which was cited at length by the opposing camp.
According to Guy Vassal-Adams, Suren Dayal’s legal team had failed in terms of statutory interpretation. He also drew a distinction between “true bribery and normal election campaign”. Before Guy Vassall-Adams, it was Suren Dayal’s lawyer to take the floor. “There has been a breach of section 64 of the Representation of People Act”, argues Timothy Straker.
Suren Dayal is also represented by Senior Counsel, Mᵉ Robin Ramburn, and Solicitor, Mᵉ Hiren Jankee.
Timothy Straker KC said that Pravind Jugnauth’s announcement of an increase in the old-age pension on 1 October 2019 during a meeting with senior citizens at the Swami Vivekanada Centre was corrupt because it was made well before the publication of the election manifesto. He added that if the announcement had been made as part of the launch of the MSM’s election manifesto, he would have had nothing to complain about.
For Suren Dayal’s lawyer, “it is clear that the Supreme Court of Mauritius committed a series of errors”. One of these errors, in his view, was that the judges in Mauritius failed to distinguish between the candidate and the party.
Pravind Jugnauth lawyer, Mᵉ Guy Vassall-Adams, stressed that the Supreme Court of Mauritius was right to dismiss the election petition. He maintained that the opposing party’s appeal was “ill-considered”.
“The allegations relate to a statement made during an election campaign. Both parties campaigned on the PRB report and on how voters would benefit from their proposals,” he said.
Mᵉ Guy Vassall-Adams also asserted that when his client made a statement about pensions, this was meant for all pensioners in Mauritius, not just those in the No. 8 constituency.
The lawyer reminded the Court that the Supreme Court of Mauritius stated that “there is a difference between corruption and a normal electoral campaign where you try to persuade voters”.
A representative of the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Supervisory Commission also appeared before the Law Lords.
However, at the beginning of his speech, Me Straker had to drop two points concerning the role played by the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) during the November 2019 election campaign. The Super Cash Back Gold (SCBG) refund issue has also been dropped by the disputing party.