You are here
Awaiting Justice from DPP
The Maha Sabha is still awaiting the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision in our radio licence discrimination case after more than ten years. The matter started before Justice Best who gave judgment on February 4, 2004, holding that there had been unequal treatment contrary to section 4(b) and (d) of the Constitution.
On February 11, 2004 we wrote Prime Minister Patrick Manning, enclosing a copy of the judgment asking that a licence be granted by February 20, 2004. Failing, we would “be forced to continue our journey for justice, equality and fair play.” The Minister of Public Administration and Information, Dr Lenny Saith, replied on February 25, 2004 saying that “The matter is receiving attention and further correspondence will be addressed to you.” None was. And we appealed on February 26, 2004. The appeal was heard in October 2004.
While disagreeing with the judge’s conclusion that the ministry’s inaction in the case of the appellants (compared to its action in the case of Citadel) amounted to a constructive refusal of a licence, they upheld his conclusion that the Ministry’s conduct amounted to a breach of Central Broadcasting Systems Limited (CBSL’s) constitutional right to equal treatment.
The matter eventually reached the Privy Council in London where the Board emphasised that, although no one has an absolute right to establish a broadcasting station, the effect of the constitutional provisions before it was that a licence could be refused only on constitutionally justifiable grounds.
It was the Board’s opinion, a similar infringement of CBSL’s right to freedom of expression under section 4(i) of the Constitution of T&T. CBSL’s application for a licence was recommended to the Minister by the Director of the Telecommunications Division as long ago as October 2000. There was unexplained and unjustified discrimination in favour of another applicant, Citadel.
The Board concluded that the appeal should be allowed. As in Observer Publications Ltd v. Matthew, the Board considered that the only appropriate order is a mandatory order, in this case ordering the Attorney General to do all that was necessary to procure and ensure the issue forthwith to the appellant, Central Broadcasting Systems Limited (CBSL), of an FM radio broadcasting licence, as applied for on September 1, 2000. The Attorney general was ordered to pay our costs in “the courts below and before the Board.”
The Integrity Commission forwarded our complaint to the Director of Public Precautions for possible action against two former Cabinet members. This matter is before the DPP for about two years and our attorney had to again invite him:
“Re: Maha Sabha Radio Licence and referral by the Integrity Commission,
I refer to the matter at caption and the several items of correspondence on same exchange between ourselves.
As you would no doubt recall pursuant to a letter sent to you on behalf of the Maha Sabha enquiring as to the status of this matter you indicated that you were in the process of seeking advice on same and that the matter was receiving your active consideration.
You would also no doubt agree that a considerable amount of time has elapsed since your last correspondence and despite your assurances that this matter was receiving your active consideration, my clients have heard nothing emanating from your office as to whether any decision has been taken in this matter.
I do not think that you would dispute that the Maha Sabha has a vested interest in seeing that this matter be dealt with one way or the other. In the view of my clients this episode epitomises the absolute abuse of power and my clients feel vindicated that the Integrity Commission has seen it fit to refer this matter to you for whatsoever action you may deem appropriate.
Whilst my clients were very optimistic that you would proceed with dispatch and alacrity in this matter given the egregious abuse of power that is alleged, they now feel disappointed and disheartened by your apparent lack of interest or urgency in proceeding with this matter.
Whilst my clients fully understand that the decision as to how to proceed with this matter is one solely within your remit, my clients nevertheless feel disappointed about this apparent lack of progress in this matter. My clients feel fortified in this view given the dispatch and speed with which the office has moved in the past in similar high profile cases.
Even though my clients are aware that the process which has to be undertaken is one to which much deference is to paid, my clients feel that the delay in coming to a decision in this matter has now crossed the threshold into the realm of unreasonable delay. The provisions of the Judicial Review Act make it plain that a public authority is not to delay unduly in making a decision in a matter in which it has a duty to decide.
In these circumstances, my clients would indeed be most grateful if you could please provide us with some reason to account for this unreasonable delay in coming to a decision in this matter. I await your most urgent reply.”
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.