State taken to court

Lawyer Jon Apted outside the Suva court. Picture: FILE

Seven prominent women have taken the Government to court, challenging new electoral laws requiring them to use their birth certificate names to be registered as voters.

The seven, represented by former supervisor of elections and renowned Suva lawyer Jon Apted, are Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, Priscilla Singh, Adi Davila Toganivalu, Elizabeth Reade Fong, Leba Seni Nabou, Yasmin Nisha Khan and Salote Raikolo Qalo.

Unionists and political activists are among seven women who have sued the Government to challenge its laws changing electoral registration requirements.

The seven include former government minister Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, politicians Priscilla Singh and Seni Nabou, teacher and community worker Adi Davila Toganivalu, unionists Elizabeth Reade Fong and Salote Qalo and Yasmin Nisha Khan.

They have filed a constitutional redress action against the Attorney-General and the Supervisor of Elections, challenging changes passed by Parliament earlier this year to the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Act and the Interpretation Act.

The seven are challenging the requirement that citizens must only use the name on their birth certificates for voting and other official purposes — including for official identification documents.

Under the new laws, people who wished to use their married or adopted names for these purposes must formally change their names on their birth certificates.

In their action, the applicants say they believed the new laws have a disproportionate, adverse impact upon married women compared with other groups.

The matter was called in the High Court in Suva yesterday morning before Chief Justice Kamal Kumar.

The Chief Justice gave directions for the filing of affidavits and fixed the case for hearing on February 24.

The applicants are represented by Munro Leys partner and former supervisor of elections Jon Apted.

Lawyer Devanesh Sharma, of R Patel and Co, represents the Attorney-General and the SOE.

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