Vigilantibus non dormientibus succurit lex – “The law helps those who are vigilant, not those who sleep”
By a recent judgment dated 21 November 2019, the Privy Council of the United Kingdom has given important clarification on the appropriate time limits for instituting judicial review proceedings.
In Mauritius Shipping Corporation Ltd v Employment Relations Tribunal and Ors  UKPC 42, the Court considered an appeal following a number of redundancies made by the Appellant, which arose from subsequent related litigation. Upon being informed of the redundancies, the Co-Respondents to the proceedings registered complaints with the Permanent Secretary, who referred the matter to the Employment Relations Tribunal, which held, on 9 May 2016, that the termination of their employment was unjustified and ordered the Appellant to pay severance allowance to the Respondents.
The Appellant challenged the Tribunal’s decision by judicial review and lodged its application for leave to apply on 20 July 2016. Refusing leave, the Supreme Court of Mauritius held that it was not persuaded the grounds of challenge were arguable and, fundamentally, that the application had not been made sufficiently promptly, with no reasons for the lack of expedition having been advanced. The Appellant appealed as of right to the Privy Council, challenging the ruling on both grounds.
Dismissing the appeal, the Court considered the relevant time limit for instituting judicial review proceedings, which must be commenced promptly and in any event within three months from the date when the grounds for the application first arose:
“It is important to bear in mind that an applicant cannot rely upon having three months in which to launch a judicial review application. The primary requirement is that the application be made promptly. The requirement that it be made in any event within three months is a “long stop”.
In the circumstances, even where proceedings are instituted within a three month period, they may still be out of time, if not instituted promptly. The promptness required will depend of the circumstances of the case – in this case, the application was of a type that required celerity, as it concerned employment and the withholding of severance payment.
A similar time limit exists in the Cayman Islands, prescribed by GCR O.53 r4(1) and this decision provides helpful guidance as to the Court’s interpretation of related provisions.