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THE AWARUA SEAT., Issue 10454, 26 October 1897
THE AWARUA SEAT.
THE CASE BEFORE'THE COURT OF APPEAL.
Thanks Ho the prompt delivery of the Association's urgent message, we were able to announce in last night's issue the result of the reference of this matter to the Court of Appeal. Au outline of the proceedings after the luncheon adjournment is now presented :
The argument for Mr Ward was continued by Mr Skerrett. He pointed out that at no time had bankruptcy been at common law a disqualification for sitting in the House of ■Commons. The disqualification, if it existed, was therefore purely statutory. Throughout all the statutes dealing with the subject there would, bo found two well-known classes of disqualification first, those which prevented a person from being eligible as a candidate; and secondly, those which arose after election and had the effect that he could not hold his seat, at all events not until after reelection. These two classes of cases had been studiously kept apart in all legislation, and continued to be dealt with separate!v in sections 8 and 130 of the Electoral Act, 1593. These sections, Mr Skerrett contended, were mutually exclusive, and bankruptcy occurring in section 130, amongst other cases clearly arising only after election, must be held to mean bankruptcy after election unless there was something plainly showing the contrary intention. Apart from everything else, it was sufficient answer to the suggestion of any other interpretation that the Act contained plain words under which an undischarged bankrupt was eligible, and that there were no plain words to the effect that he should not hold the seat when elected. Mr Gully, aB counsel nominated by the' Speaker of the House, submitted that the argument for Mr Ward amounted to this: that if a person became bankrupt the day before election he could hold a seat, but if the day after then he immediately entered upon a period of disability. This was an absurdity which would be avoided if possible. It was very material to consider the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act in connection with the case. It was almost impossible for • a person to carry on the duties of a member of the House and at the same time those which were cast upon him by the Bankruptcy Act as an undischarged bankrupt. He cited a number of sections of that Act as showing that a bankrupt while undischarged must practically be at the beck and call of the Official Assignee. It was therefore to be expected that the Legislature would treat the status of bankruptcy at whatever time it had commenced as inconsistent with the position of a member of the House. The words of subsection 4 of section 130 were quite plain—the words "If he is a baukrupt" referring to a continuing status. It was said that the opening words of the sectioD, "The seat of abiember shall become vacant," showed it was the becoming bankrupt of an existing member that was aimed at, but these words would also cover the case of a person elected to be a member, and the effect would be that immediately upon hi 3 election the seat would become vacant. There was no more reason why the question of the right to sit should be" left to the constituency in a case of bankruptcy than in . the case of any other disqualification. The change of language from "shall become a bankrupt" in the Constitution Act to "is a bankrupt" in the Act 3 of 1881 and 1593 must be given effect to. The old legislation on the Bubject was no guide. It was better to look to the present poiicy of the Legislature as ev.'nced by modem Acts. He cited numerous existing statutes relating to local bodies as showing the growing tendency to treat bankruptcy as in every case a disqualification. With reference to the special argument founded on section 131, he contended that the fact that that section provided machinery for notifying the Speaker only in case of an existing member being adjudicated a bankrupt need not affect the operation of section 130. The Speaker could inform himself in some other wa,y. The words of section 130 were plain, and the Court should give effect to them. Mr Cooper having replied, The CI i3f Jnatics, after a conference with the other membera of the Bench, intimated that the Court was unanimously of opinion that the scat of the member for the Awarua Klecioral District in the present Parliament had not become vucant by reason of tho facts Btated, aud that a certificate to that effect, under the hands of two of the judges, would be forwarded to the Speaker of the House as soon as possible, as required by the Act. Hi 3 Honor further intimated that the reasons for the conclusion of the Court would be . given in writing later on. \ The Court fixed the costs of those acting i lor Mr Ward at 70gs, and of those acting for Speaker at 40gs. These costs, the "Act tirovides, shall be paid out of moneys to be expropriated by Parliament.
THE AWARUA SEAT., Issue 10454, 26 October 1897
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