High court rules 1956 Act still law


THE Supreme Court has ruled that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Act 1956 is a constitutionally-valid law.
The determination last Friday came after the Fly River provincial executive filed a special reference challenging the constitutional validity of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1956.
Former attorney-general Ano Pala was named as the first intervener, while Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and retired judge Justice Warwick Andrew were named as second and third interveners.
The reference was filed after a CoI was established by O’Neill in 2014 under the Act to investigate and report on the procedures employed by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General to brief law firms to represent the State.
The CoI started hearing and summoned the provincial administrator of Western to give evidence in relation to brief-out arrangements by the Fly River government.
The provincial executive took issue with the summons and filed the reference.
The provincial executive argued that the Act was pre-Independence law and that should comply with the law-making conditions prescribed by section 38 of the Constitution, which the Act failed to do.
The Supreme Court ruled that the CoI Act 1956 was a pre-independence law pursuant to Schedule 2.6 (1) of the Constitution.
The court found that the adoption and application of the Act was subject to any constitutional law but not to section 38 of the Constitution.
The court found that section 38 was intended to apply to laws made after Independence that followed the due law-making processes and was not intended to apply to pre-Independence laws.

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