The Supreme Court Act provides for the Court's powers and some of its procedures on an appeal from the National Court and gives power for a National Court judge to refer and the Supreme Court to consider questions of law. Other procedures on appeal are contained in rules made by the judges of the Supreme Court. The Constitution gives the court general power to make rules of court (Constitution section 184). The Supreme Court's additional powers to review decisions of the National Court (when an appeal is not available) and to consider references on constitutional issues, are given by the Constitution itself. Procedure in those cases is governed by Rules made by the Judges of the Supreme Court.The Supreme Court is the highest court in Papua New Guinea. It is a court of record, and must therefore keep a record of the proceedings done before it and give a written decision on every proceeding.
The membership of the Supreme Court is as follows:
- Chief Justice
- Deputy Chief Justice
- Other full time Judges
The sitting of a Supreme Court constitutes of three (3) or five (5) Judges. The odd number is used so that where there is a difference of opinion among the Judges, there will always be a majority. This ensures that a conclusion is reached in every case. A Judge cannot abstain from making a decision. Full time Judges of the Supreme Court are also Judges of the National Court.
Full time citizen Judges are appointed for a 10-year period, which appointment may be renewed or extended. Full time non-citizen Judges are appointed for a three-year term, which appointment may be renewed or extended.
The terms and conditions of employment of Judges' are determined by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. This is the same body that determines the salary and other terms and conditions of Members of Parliament, Constitutional Office-holders, Heads of Departments and Ministers of State.
The principal seat of the Supreme Court is at Waigani in the capital, Port Moresby. Until June 1994, the Supreme Court has been sitting in Waigani only to deal with cases coming to the Supreme Court from all over the country. In June 1994, for the first time, the Supreme Court sat outside of the National Capital District, in Mount Hagen. In the same year it also sat in Lae and could have sat in Rabaul too if it had not been for the volcanic eruptions. In 1995 the Supreme Court sat in all these three regional centres. The Supreme Court sitting in the regional centres is intended to bring the formal courts closer to the ordinary people of this country.
Procedure for commencement of a case
A case before the Supreme Court is commenced or started by filling the appropriate form for that particular case and lodging this form with the required court fee at the Supreme Court Registry. The basic forms are Notice of Appeal, References and Notice of Motions. The Registrar of the Supreme Court at Waigani registers the case if every thing is in order and advises on the date of the hearing of the case. The forms to be filled in and information on the required fee will be given at the registry.
The registry of the Supreme Court is at the Waigani Court (Supreme Court Building). That is the place where cases for the Supreme Court are registered, dates for hearing given and any matters concerning Supreme Court cases are handled.
Questions or queries can be made to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, whose address and telephone & fax numbers can be found on this Home Page. People from centres outside the National Capital District who want to speak in person with court staff concerning the Supreme Court, can speak to the Assistant Registrars of the National Court or Clerks of Court of the National Court at their centre.
Role of the Supreme Court
The jurisdiction or powers of the Supreme Court are as given by the Constitution or any other statutory law of Papua New Guinea. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court extends to the following:
- hear appeals from decisions made by the National Court;
- review decisions made by the National Court (concerning matters of which the law does not allow for appeals to be made);
- give an opinion or advice on whether a proposed law or already made law by Parliament is constitutional (that is, whether it complies with the Constitution or not);
- develop rules of the underlying law;
- enforce human rights as provided under the Constitution.
The decisions of the Supreme Court are final. That means there is no higher court to which appeals or applications can be made if a person is not happy with the decision of the Supreme Court. That is because the Supreme Court is the highest Court in Papua New Guinea. In certain situations only, however, can the Supreme Court review its own previous decisions.
The Supreme Court is the final Court of Appeal. It deals with two main types of appeals: Criminal and Civil
Types of Criminal matter that are registered are:
- SCRA : Criminal appeals from Prisoners with or without legal representation and Appeals by Public prosecutor;
- SCAPP. : Application for Bail
Types of Civil matters that are registered are:
- SCA : Civil Appeal
- SCM : Appeal by way of Notice of Motion against Order 16 National Court Rules (JR) matters
- SCAPP. :Application for Extension of Time
- SCREV. :Reviews brought after 40 days time limit, pursuant to Section 155 (2)(b) Constitution
- SCREF :Constitutional References under Section 18 or Section 19 of the Constitution
RESERVATIONS ON POINTS OF LAW
- SCRES.: Reservation by National Court Judges on Points of law for interpretation or ruling by the Supreme Court under Section 21 of the Supreme Court Act.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION IN CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS
- SCAPP. :Application for Enforcement of Constitutional Rights
- SCOS :Supreme Court Originating Summons for filing of Applications