Valabhji v The Republic of Seychelles & Ors (MA 111 of 2024 (Arising in CP 06 of 2023)) [2024] SCCC 2 (12 June 2024)

Order

The application for stay of proceedings is dismissed

Case summary

Application for a stay of proceedings


BURHAN J (Carolus J and Adeline J concurring)

  1. This is an application arising from constitutional petition CP 06 of 2023, seeking a stay of proceedings in the said case.

  2. The salient facts are that the Applicants are the 1st and 2nd accused in the case of Republic v Mukesh Valabhji & Others (“CR 04 of 2022”). On the 14th of June 2023 the Applicants filed a petition in the Constitutional Court pursuant to Article 46(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles (the “Constitution”) alleging inter alia their rights to a fair trial were being infringed by the Respondents and the Court in CR 04 of 2022. The constitutional case proceeded with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents filing preliminary objections. Parties proceeded to file reply and written submissions and the matter was thereafter adjourned to the 16th of May 2024 for ruling on the preliminary objections. On the 14th of May 2024, the Applicants filed this application moving that the Constitutional Court stay proceedings in the constitutional case CP 06 of 2023 which would include the anticipated ruling in respect of the preliminary objections in the said case.

  3. The main grounds urged are that the criminal trial in CR 04 of 2022 is ongoing and the 2nd Respondent has closed its case in April 2024. At present, learned Counsel for the accused are in the process of filing no case to answer submissions and abuse of process submissions on behalf of the accused. It is the contention of the Applicants that as the trial in the said case is still ongoing and judgment on the no case to answer has not been delivered, it would be “proper and best” for the proceedings in CP 06 of 2023 be stayed, as the Applicants are not currently in a position to fully articulate and substantiate the full extent of the prejudice and contraventions that they have complained of in their petition.

  4. The Applicants further contend that the Constitutional Court will be in a better position to determine the constitutional case once the full details of the criminal trial are set out, in that during the first part of the prosecution’s case during the trial, the accused were totally unrepresented and by the fact that they were deprived of reasonable and adequate time and facilities to properly prepare their defence. They further submit that the contraventions and prejudices are latent and will only be fully appreciated at the stage of conclusion of the trial of the criminal case CR 04 of 2022.

  5. The Applicants further submit that they are advised by their Counsel that in order to meet the ends of justice and to avoid wasting this Court’s time, it is just and necessary that this Court orders a stay of the proceedings in the constitutional case (i.e. CP 06 of 2023) pending the determination of the criminal trial CR 04 of 2022.

  6. The 1st and 2nd Respondents contend that the application for stay should not be entertained as the case should be determined as at the date that the relevant proceedings were instituted and therefore the Court cannot take into consideration events that occurred after the institution of the relevant proceedings. Further, the ruling to be given is in respect of the preliminary objections raised and not on the merits of the case and therefore the reasons provided as the basis of the application have no relevance to the pending ruling. The Respondents further aver that the time and manner in which the application was made is an abuse of process and by seeking a stay on the basis that the main case cannot be properly determined is an acknowledgment that the substantive case has been filed prematurely.

  7. The 3rd Respondent filed an affidavit of Mr Denis Joubert and written submissions setting out the history of the Constitutional case CP 06 of 2023 filed by the Applicants and the history of the Criminal case CR 04 of 2022 against the Applicants and stating that the application to stay has come at the eleventh hour. It further expresses the view that the application comes the moment the Supreme Court in CR 04 of 2022 is about to determine applications to dismiss the charges and/or abuse of process arguments, prior to the defence being presented. It is contended that the stay is being sought to litigate the said decisions as part of alleged contraventions of the Constitution as an extra layer of appellate jurisdiction. The 3rd Respondent contends that this is an inappropriate use of the Constitutionals Court’s time and jurisdiction.

  8. Giving due consideration to the facts set out in this application and the submissions made, this Court is unable to find a legal basis on which this application has been made to stay the due ruling of this Court. This application for a stay is not based on a stay of proceedings pending execution of judgment, nor is it based on a stay pending appeal or a stay to maintain the status quo. Any determination of this Court in this case will be in respect of matters of alleged infringements set out in the constitutional petition already filed by the Applicants currently before Court. It is the Applicants who chose the timing of their constitutional petition. To seek a stay of a ruling at the eleventh hour and to ask the Court to stop and wait till they gather further futuristic evidence of constitutional contraventions is a clear abuse of process.

  9. Further, it appears from this application that the Applicants themselves admit they are “not currently in a position to fully articulate and substantiate the full extent of the prejudice and contraventions” that they have complained of in their petition. If the Applicants feel their constitutional petition has been filed prematurely and as expressed by themselves, they do not wish to waste the time of the Court, they may proceed to withdraw the petition filed but to seek a stay of proceedings on the said grounds is unacceptable.

  10. The application for stay of proceedings is dismissed.

Signed, dated and delivered at Ile du Port on 12 June 2024.


 

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M Burhan J

(Presiding)

 

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E Carolus J

 

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B Adeline J

 

 

 

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