In December 2014, the Integrity Commission instituted legal proceedings against the Attorney General in the High Court concerning the interpretation of sections 16 and 22 of the Integrity in Public Office Act, 2003.
The action became necessary because a person in public life, a former Minister of Government, Hon. Charles Savarin, as he then was, who now holds the office of President failed to file a declaration with the Commission for the calendar year ending December, 2013 in accordance with section 16 of the Act which mandates that a person in public life shall file a declaration with the Commission in the following two income years after the declarant ceased to be a person in public life, otherwise than by reason of death.
Also, when, in accordance with the mandatory provision of section 22 of the Act, the Commission sought to publish that fact in the Official Gazette the Executive refused to do so on the ground that such publication was contrary to section 27 of the Constitution and would bring the office of the President into disrepute.
On 29th September, 2015 the Integrity Commission received the High Court's written Judgment in the Civil Claim No. DOMHCV 2014/371, Integrity Commission, Claimant and The Attorney General, Defendant.
The Court ruled as follows:
- That upon the proper construction of Section 16(2) of the IPO Act a person who assumes the office of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica having been a person in public life during the immediately preceding period, is not required to file a declaration in Form 2 whilst that person holds the office of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica; and
- That upon proper construction of Section 22 of the IPO Act the Integrity Commission is not entitled to nor is it required to have published in the Gazette the name of a person who hold the office of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica declaring that that person has not filed a declaration in Form 2
The Court's reasons for decision included the following:
- "I am of the view that whilst the President is in office any obligations which he may have in his personal life imposed by law which has a criminal or civil sanction as a result of inaction or action on his part is suspended whilst he is in office." [Para. 50];
- "I am of the considered view that upon a true construction of Section 27 the President is shielded from the institution of criminal proceedings which ought to and should include and preparatory steps which would likely result in the institution of criminal proceedings." [Para 46]
- "I am of the considered view that for the President's name to appear on a list of defaulters in the Gazette or to be named in a report presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action which is for possible criminal prosecution even though it would be for an alleged default in his private and personal capacity would be flying in the face of the protection offered by the Constitution and would be bringing the office of the President into disrepute." [Para 49]
- "Once the President demits office which he has to, his obligation to file his declaration as it regards the period that he was in public life prior to his assuming the office of President resumes and the time limit as set by Section 16(1) of the IPO Act would be within two months and twenty six days of his demitting office, there after the Commission would be free to take the action as laid down in the IPO Act." [Para 52]
Section 16(1) and (2) of the Integrity in Public Office Act enact as follows:
- A person in public life shall, in respect of each income year, file a declaration required under this Act within three months after the end of that income year
- The declaration shall be filed irrespective of the fact that, during the income year in respect of which the declaration is required or in the following two income years, the declarant ceased to be a person in public life, otherwise than by reason of death"
Section 22 enacts as follows:
- Where a person who is required to file a declaration under section 16 fails to file the declaration in accordance with this Act or fails to furnish particulars under section 15 or section 17, the Commission shall publish the fact in the Gazette and send a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action
Section 27 of the Constitution provides as follows:
- "Whilst any person holds office or is acting as President no criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official capacity or in his private capacity and no civil proceedings shall be instituted or continued in respect of which relief is claimed against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in his private capacity."
- "Where the provision is made by law limiting the time within which proceedings of any description may be brought against any person, the period during which any person has held office or acted as President shall not be taken into account in calculating any period of time described by that law which determines whether any such proceedings as are mentioned in subsection (1) of this section may be brought against that person."