On behalf of Deputy Little, I move to delete sub-section (2).
Financial Motions. - Courts of Justice (No. 2) Bill, 1931. Committee.
This is an amendment which I could not possibly accept because it would alter the right of the parties as found by the Supreme Court. The effect of the amendment would be that in the case of Quinn v. Stokes it would alter the rights and liabilities which the Supreme Court declared, by order, to be the law at the time. It would be entirely unprecedented to interfere with the judgment of a court to the detriment of one party in this way and it would be entirely wrong procedure. I could not accept the amendment.
I have had urgent representations setting out the facts in this case. It appears to me that it is most unfair that individuals who have been so public-spirited as to go to the expense of carrying this case to the highest court in the land, who have produced results such as have been produced for the benefit of the country and who have forced the Ministry to remedy the defects of their own negligence, should be victimised. There was no reason at any time why the Minister should not have prevented this from occurring. It is well known that members of the legal profession and several of the judges tried to prevent a case like this from coming on before until the Ministry had an opportunity to set matters right. It was a matter of which everybody with expert knowledge was aware. Now that a case has been brought and public attention concentrated on the matter, the individual who went to the highest court of the land will only get out of the action £85. He will be obliged to pay a great part of his costs, which are very considerable, because costs will only be allowed on the old County Court scale. That is absurd, and these people are going to be victimised because of some abstract principle about not interfering with a judgment. As a matter of fact, this does not interfere with the merits of the main case at all. It is purely a technical point. It is only a matter of costs and has nothing to say to the essence of the decision or the merits of the case as between the parties. It is only setting right the machinery of the law which should have been set right long ago. If the Ministry want to maintain some abstract principle, which it is very difficult to understand or see any reason for, they should, as an ex gratia matter, a matter of justice and from the point of view of the public, indemnify these people to the extent of the costs in which they have been involved for the benefit of the public.
I hope Deputy Little will not press this amendment. If he does, I shall be obliged to vote against it. Although the Deputy refers to this as an abstract principle, I think it is a very important principle. The amendment would introduce a new principle and a very objectionable one. This House would, in effect, be reversing a judgment of the Supreme Court. Deputy Little says that this only refers to the costs and does not interfere with the merits of the case. That is quite right, but the question brought before the Supreme Court had not to do with the merits but with the question of costs. It was the question of costs alone that came before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in a particular way in that case and if this Parliament were to do something which would, in effect, reverse the decision of the Supreme Court, it would be wrong in principle. If that were extended, as it might well be extended, I think it would lead to a very objectionable practice, in which this Parliament would reverse decisions pronounced in the courts. There is a very grave constitutional danger involved in this amendment, even though the principle be an abstract one, as Deputy Little suggested.
I regret that Deputy O'Connell has taken up this attitude. As a matter of fact, there were reversals all through in this matter. This reversing was done in Lynam & Butler where it was applied directly to the case. The result was to reverse the whole position. Then, again, the judges have reversed their opinion as shown by the case of the Sligo Corporation. There is no constitutional question at issue. The thing has been fractured in every limb so far as reversals go. Here, it is only a question of doing justice to a particular individual. I suggest that that is the supreme principle and ought to over-rule the others.
If the State finds some other way of compensating these people for the cost they have been involved in, I shall not object, but I do object to the method by which it is suggested it should be done here.
I am prepared to agree with Deputy O'Connell in that. So long as the people are not victimised, I do not mind.
So far from doing justice, Deputy Little's amendment would do injustice. There were certain parties to the case. One of them has got certain rights against the other as regards costs. These rights are to be swept away from that individual because Deputy Little has got an interest in the other individual. That is precisely the suggestion that Deputy Little is putting before the House at the present moment. Deputy Little says the administration should remedy the defects of their own negligence. There was no negligence on the part of the administration. Deputy Little knows perfectly well that if the Rules of Court had been passed here in March, 1930, this case would never have arisen. Deputy Little knows that I brought the rules before this House and that, so far from being negligent, I impressed upon the House as vigorously as I could that those rules should become law. Deputy Little was one of the gentlemen who voted against that.
I think I am entitled to answer that. There was an overwhelming majority not only in this House but amongst others who knew the subject of opinion that it would be far better from a scientific point of view and as an ordinary business arrangement that the Rules of Court should be adopted after the Courts of Justice Bill had been dealt with. We did all in our power, by sitting during holiday periods and at other times, to expedite the reports on the working of the Courts of Justice Act. There has been a delay since last December, when the Report was in the Minister's hands. In March, I think, he introduced the Rules of Court.
The previous March.
There was ample time from last December until this term to deal with the matter. If the Minister, instead of introducing the absurd monster of a Bill that he introduced last week, had introduced a Courts of Justice Bill, it would have gone a long way towards setting the matter. Instead of that, he has been so interested in matters that do not matter that he has not paid any attention to the matters that do matter.
The peace of the country does not matter and, according to Deputy Little, it does not matter whether or not the courts are able to sit at all. Deputy Little comes along with the very intelligent remark that the courts would have decided differently last June if I had introduced a Bill during the present month.