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The Chief justice "yesterday delivered a judgment of the Court of Appeal containing reasons for the decision of the Court in the Awarua seat inquiry case.i The 'judgment pointed out that section 130 of the Electoral Act, 1893, providea: that> a seat to become vacant assumes, of necessity, that it has been previously full—that is to say, that there has been a valid return and a valid election. Section 9 provides that every man registered as an elector and not disqualified by section 8 is qualified to be elected a member. Section 6 prescribes the propsrty for the residential qualification of an elector. Section 8 disqualifies certain persons from being electors, but not an undischarged bankrupt.- There was nothing, therefore, which would prevent an undischarged bankrupt from being registered as an elector, and in consequence from being elected as a member. S action 130, which renders a seat vacant after it has been filled, could not be construed bo as to alter the express provisions of section 9, and to disqualify from election a person qualified by the earlier section. The object of the two sections was entirely disI tinot. Section 9 prescribes who is qualified to be elected as a member, section 130 prescribes in what cases the scat of any member who lias been duly elected, and must therefore have been duly qualified to be elected, is to become vacant. The question, therefore, was whether when an undischarged bankrupt has been elected his seat at once; becomes vacant under subsection 4of section 130. The contention that it does so become vacant was based on the circumstance that the words in the subsection are in the present tense. It was contended that the words thus refer to an existing state of things and to a person whose status is that of a bankrupt. If this were the true construction it would lead to the absurd coic'usion that although an undischarged bankrupt is qualified to be elected as a member he cannot sit as a member, but ceases to be a member at the very instant at which he becomes a member. In order to support such a contention, the Court must be satisfied beyond all doubt from the terms of the statute that such was the intention of the Legislature. A revie : w of the previously existing law on the subject threw a light on the construction of the Act of 1894, and showed that if it is contended that bankruptcy either disqualifies a person from being elected or vacates his seat when elected, it must appear that there is some statute which expressly, or by necessary implication, imposes disqualification or weates a vacancy. The context and other provisions of the Act of 1893, whioh might throw light on the subject, must also be considered ; while the contention that the scat in the case before the Court become vacant rested on a change language from " shall become" bankrupt the Constitution Act to " is " bankrupt in the Acts of 1891 and 1593. But the natural inference on comparing the sections was that the draftsman of the latter Acts conceived that the present tense was a neater form of expressing the same meanings and - that he had no intention of altering the section in substance. Section 130 of the Act of 1893 starts with a governing clause, and enacts that a seat "shall" become vacant if certain events happen. It contemplated, therefore, these events were to happen after the seat had betn filled. It was a matter of indifference, therefore, whether such events were afterwards expressed in the present tense or future, because the governing clause necessarily referred them to the future. It was the same thing to say a seat shall become vacant if a member "shall" die or; if a member " dies." The interpretation and disqualification clauses showed that the words " is a public defaulter " in subsection 5 must mean "is convicted as a public defaulter after electiou." In like manner the true construction of subsection 4 was, in the opinion of the Court, that the words *' is a bankrupt" mean" is adjudged a bankrupt afterelection." Thatconstruction renders the whole section consistent, and avoided the extreme absurdity which would follow from a contrary construction. That section 130 refers to bankruptcy in future wa3 shown by section 131, which provides that the registrar of the court in which a member has been adjudged bankrupt shall within fortyeight hours after adjudication notify the same to tho Speaker of the Legislature. Had it intended bankruptcy to be a disqualification for election or for sitting as a member it might have been expected there would have been an express enactment, as in the case of Legislative Councillors and members of road boards and county and borough councillors. For these reasons the Court had dstormined that the seat of the member for the Awarua electoral district had not become vaoant, and had certified accordingly.

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Bibliographic details

THE AWARUA SEAT., Evening Star, Issue 10464, 6 November 1897, Supplement

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THE AWARUA SEAT. Evening Star, Issue 10464, 6 November 1897, Supplement