Thu | Feb 22, 2018

Why so long for Hayles report hearing?

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM


My first observation in the Ian Hayles controversy is to enquire as to why the Supreme Court thinks that such an important matter can wait until May to be heard and/or determined.

This is such an important constitutional matter that a hearing in May seems, and is, too far away, especially when we remind ourselves of the fact that it does not automatically follow that a decision will be promulgated immediately.

This is a case of wide public importance and, as such, the court's administrator(s), in conjunction with the learned judge, should have listed this matter for a final hearing and determination in early May.

The matter raises for consideration the issue of parliamentary privilege and whether the court can interfere with the proceedings of Parliament, even where it is being asserted that a report from a statutory body would encroach on a citizen's rights. I have read what the Supreme Court had said in its 2014 decision on this matter. I have my reservations about some of the conclusions arrived at in that decision and I would hope that the differences are highlighted with the present case. Until overruled, I must respect that decision, even if I disagree with it.

The question is this: Should the Supreme Court provide a positive answer where one says that his rights are being encroached, not by an act of Parliament, but on account of a parliamentary procedure - such as the tabling of a statutory investigative report?

I have not seen the application that is before the court, but I hope that it does not conflate Parliament as legislator with Parliament the chamber, in which the executive is checked.

In the case of the former, the Constitution is supreme but in the latter, I am not so sure that the court has a role, because Parliament governs its own procedures.