The Court of Appeal is expected to deliver a ruling on the status of Trinidad and Tobago’s sedition laws today.
The challenge to the law was filed by now deceased Sat Maharaj, after police executed search warrants on the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha’s (SDMS) media house Central Broadcasting Services after Maharaj made a series of incendiary statements on his Maha Sabha Strikes Back programme on TV Jaagriti on April 15, 2019. He said citizens living in Tobago were lazy and the men were rapists.
In January last year, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional and that it is vague, uncertain, and can lead to arbitrary application.
Seepersad had ruled that sections 3 and 4 of the Sedition Act, which came into effect in 1920, were not in conformity with the Constitution, as they imposed disproportionate and unjustified restrictions on citizens’ free speech, expression and thought. The judge also held that the act infringed on the right to freedom of the press.
After the ruling, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said it was “dangerous” and would be appealed all the way to the Privy Council in England.
The State then filed 29 grounds of appeal, following Seepersad’s ruling.
An additional five grounds were relied on relating to a substitution order in which the judge allowed Sat’s son Vijay Maharaj, to replace his father as a claimant in the proceedings that ended in Seepersad’s judgment striking down the sedition laws.
In his ruling, Seepersad found sections 3 and 4 of the Sedition Act patently inconsistent and at odds with Section 1 of the Constitution.
The ruling meant that people could no longer be charged with sedition.
Maharaj’s attorneys, led by Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, are expected to hold a virtual media conference after the Court of Appeal’s decision on Friday.