Important law under review


Court of Appeal president Francis MacGregor addressing the guests

The current Civil Code – as Chapter 33 of the Laws of Seychelles is normally referred to – regulates everything, the chairperson of its review committee Judge Mathilda Twomey said when the president of the Court of Appeal Francis MacGregor launched the process to update it.

This was in a ceremony attended by ministers, members of the National Assembly, judges, magistrates, lawyers and professors of law from abroad at the Seychelles Marketing Board’s conference room.
Mr MacGregor said the code touches every aspect of our lives, governing everything from the day we are born to when we die … “and after because it also governs succession issues”.

He said it is the largest source of laws of Seychelles with 2,280 articles covering over 290 pages yet it was legislated for and approved in 1975 in parliament with just one sitting without a committee stage, in an assembly where most members were new and public information was mainly through radio broadcasts which were limited to just eight hours a day with little local content.
“There was no television, computers or internet, no university and no public debate on the law that touches most of our lives,” he said.

Creole was neither as developed or as recognised as it is today even though it was the language of the masses, he said, noting there were only two Supreme Court judges and four chambers of practicing lawyers, one of which was phasing out.

“The question for us may be whether such a major piece of legislation was adequately thought out. Today can we answer that question, also adequately, after 38 years of experience, application and practice?”

He said the Seychelles legal profession and judiciary have settled in distinctive ways of using the code by treating some clauses in a distinctive Seychelles way while treating others in accordance with French law as explained through presentations that followed.

Judge Twomey was among those who gave some background of the civil code – otherwise known as Code Napoleon which came into operation here in 1804, having been maintained during the British rule.
She talked about its place within the country’s mixed jurisdiction, its first revision in 1976 and how it has worked in practice.

Yesterday’s launch was seen to open the way for all partners to contribute to the revision.

Other speakers included law professor Anthony Angelo from New Zealand’s Wellington University and lawyer Bernard Georges who talked about the code’s successes, failures and challenges.