Sharma and Others v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Bingham of Cornhill
Judgment Date20 June 2007
Neutral Citation[2007] UKPC 41
CourtPrivy Council
Docket NumberAppeal No 73 of 2006
Date20 June 2007

[2007] UKPC 41

Privy Council

Present at the hearing:-

Lord Bingham of Cornhill

Lord Hope of Craighead

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Lord Carswell

Appeal No 73 of 2006
Chandresh Sharma

and others

The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

[Delivered by Lord Bingham of Cornhill]


The issue in this appeal is whether the appellants are entitled to remuneration as members of the House of Representatives ("the House") for a period beginning on 11 December 2001 and ending on 6 October 2002. In a judgment given on 24 March 2005 Bereaux J held that they were not so entitled. On 17 March 2006 the Court of Appeal (Sharma CJ, Warner and Mendouca JJA) affirmed that decision. The appellants maintain their claim, made by way of constitutional motion.


In a general election held on 10 December 2001 the eighteen appellants, all members of the United National Congress ("the UNC"), were elected to the House of Representatives ("the House"). In the ordinary course, the House would at its first meeting after the election and before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, have elected a Speaker and Deputy Speaker pursuant to section 50 of the 1976 Constitution. The appellants would then, in accordance with section 57 of the Constitution, have taken the oath of allegiance prescribed in the First Schedule to the Constitution. They would thereupon have become entitled to participate fully in the business of the House and to payment of a parliamentary salary at the approved rate with effect from 11 December 2001, the day after the poll.


But events did not follow an ordinary course. This was because, as more fully described in Bobb and another v Manning [2006] UKPC 22, paras 2-6 and 9, the general election yielded an exact equality of seats in the House to the People's National Movement ("the PNM") and the UNC, each party winning eighteen seats. Neither party therefore had a majority in the House. The President, acting under section 76(1)(b) of the constitution, appointed Mr Manning, the leader of the PNM, as Prime Minister on 24 December 2001. Mr Manning acted promptly to appoint ministers. On 26 December 2001, with effect from the same date, he appointed the seventeen PNM members of the House, all the members other than himself. On 28 December 2001, with effect from the same date, he appointed ten members of the Senate also to be ministers. Upon appointment all ministers became entitled to ministerial salaries at the prescribed rate. No complaint is made by the appellants about these ministerial appointments or the payments to which those appointed became entitled.


Pursuant to a presidential proclamation made pursuant to section 67(1) of the Constitution, the new Parliament met for the first time after the general election on 5 April 2002. On that day and the following day the House attempted but failed to elect a Speaker. Because of the equality of votes on each side of the House there was no majority in favour of any member put forward by either party, and no majority in favour of any outside candidate. There was thus an impasse. On 6 April 2002 Parliament was prorogued. On 28 August 2002 Parliament met again and the House again tried to elect a Speaker, but it remained deadlocked and was unable to make an election. On 30 August 2002 the President dissolved Parliament, and a general election was held on 7 October 2002. In this, the PNM won a clear majority of seats, and the previous deadlock was not repeated. But the appellants were aggrieved: because no Speaker had been elected in the previous Parliament they had been unable to take the oath of allegiance, although it has never been suggested that they were not entirely ready to do so; and because they had not taken the oath of allegiance the House authorities held that they were not entitled to draw salary (although entitled to some minor parliamentary allowances). The appellants were the more aggrieved because their PNM opponents, all in receipt of ministerial salaries, suffered no comparable detriment.


The Constitution is, by section 2, the supreme law of Trinidad and Tobago and any other law inconsistent with it is, to the extent of any inconsistency, void. Section 4 gives constitutional protection to certain listed rights. Section 14 provides for redress where a constitutional right has been, is being or is likely to be contravened. Section 57, referred to in paragraph 2 above, provides:

"57. No member of either House shall take part in the proceedings of that House (other than proceedings necessary for the purposes of this section) until he has made and subscribed before that House the oath of allegiance, so however that the election of a Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and the election of a President of the Senate and Vice-President of the Senate may take place before the members of the House of Representatives, or the members of the Senate, as the case may be, have made and subscribed such oath."

This provision is reinforced by Rule 2 of the Standing Orders of the House 1961. Sections 140-141 of the Constitution are central to this appeal. They provide:

"140. (1) There shall be a Salaries Review Commission which shall consist of a Chairman and four other members all of whom shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

(2) The members of the Salaries Review Commission...

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  • Our Inherent Constitution
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    • Transitions in Caribbean Law The habits of constitutionalism
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    ...3) 331. 84. Ibid. 85. A.R. Carnegie, ‘Floreat the Westminster Model? A Commonwealth Caribbean Perspective’ (1996) 6 Carib LR 1, 12. 86. [2007] UKPC 41, (2007) 70 WIR 287 (T&T). Our Inherent Constitution It was based on the colonial practice and convention at Westminster of paying parliament......

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