Court will rule on bid to stay fee amendments

The Supreme Court bench will make its ruling this Friday on whether it will grant interim orders to stop parliament from further debating the proposed amendments to increase election nomination fees and election petition security fees.

The Ombudsman Commission moved its application seeking interim orders on Monday before a three-man Supreme Court bench.

Counsel to the Ombudsman, Dr Vergil Narokobi, said section 19(4) of the Supreme Court rules gives the Supreme Court the jurisdiction, or powers, to grant interim relief for such application brought under section 19 of the constitition.

He said under section 19 of the Supreme Court rules, the court can declare a proposed law to be unconstitutional.

He further submitted that serious questions arise from the two proposed amendments and the increase of the election nomination fees will deprive citizens’ right to vote and stand for public office.

Counsel for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Tiffany Twivey, responded saying parliament is the law making entity which is protected by its privileges and separation of powers.

She said the court lacks the jurisdiction to grant interim orders sought by the Ombudsman and cannot interfere with the law making processes, which have already commenced in parliament.

Twivey also added that the court cannot interfere with the law making pocess until after the presentation of certificate has taken place when the bill is passed.

On Aug 19, 2016, the proposal to amend the fees were mentioned in parliament with the Gazette notice released on Dec 1, 2016.

On January 26 this year, the first reading of the amendments took place. The second reading and first vote took place on Feb 1. The third and final reading and vote will take place between April 2 and 19th because the issue of writs will be on April 20.

In the application, the Ombudsman Commission is asking the Supreme Court to issue interim orders to restrain further deliberation on the proposed amendments until the Reference is heard and deliberated upon by the Court.

In this reference, the OC wants to find out whether the proposed increase of nomination fees, from K1,000 to K10,000, and the security of costs of an election petition, from K5,000 to K20,000, are constitutional.

Sally Pokiton