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Nizam beats Max
Days before President George Maxwell Richards demits office, a decision he made during his ten-year tenure has been overturned in the San Fernando High Court. Yesterday, Civil Court judge Judith Jones declared Richards’ 2011 decision to revoke the appointment of chairman of the Police Service Commission, Nizam Mohammed, was “null, void and of no effect.”
However, while Jones’ decision rescinds Richards’ revocation of Mohammed’s appointment, Mohammed, a senior attorney and former Speaker, will not be able to reassume his position at the commission since Prof Ramesh Deosaran now sits as chairman. But Mohammed does not want to return either.
“I cannot work with at least three of the present commissioners, whose treachery cannot be easily forgotten,” Mohammed said yesterday as he spoke with reporters following Jones’ ruling. Mohammed did not seek damages since he said it was not about money. “My main concern was to clear my name. I was fired for incompetence and irresponsibility when all I was trying to do was to be honest,” Mohammed said.
He admitted the damage had already been done to his reputation because of his dismissal. “In a brutal society as ours it is not easy to repair such damage,” he added. In April 2011, Mohammed was fired after he raised the issue of an ethnic imbalance in the Police Service and pledged, as chairman, to address the matter with the help of Parliament.
Ten days after his contentious statements, Richards removed him as commission chairman. Yesterday, Jones, presiding in the San Fernando Civil Court, ruled in favour of Mohammed, who was represented by attorneys Fyard Hosein, SC, and Ravi Mungalsingh.
Attorney Gerald Ramdeen appeared on behalf of the Attorney General
Jones upheld the argument that Mohammed was not given a fair opportunity to “meet and treat with the allegations made against him and the conclusions drawn from these allegations.” The judge, in her 27-page ruling, said the circumstances under which Richards’ decision was reached, “when examined objectively, do not demonstrate fair play in action.” She described the situation as “unfortunate.”
The judge said it was not for her to determine whether the President was right or wrong but to find whether Mohammed was afforded a proper opportunity to answer the case made out against him, adding she did not think so. “I am satisfied that (Mohammed’s) constitutional protection to the right to procedural fairness has been infringed,” she ruled.
Jones said Richards’s decision contravened Mohammed’s right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of justice and his rights and obligations as guaranteed to him by section 5(2)(e) of the Constitution. Before being removed, Mohammed was summoned to a meeting with Richards. Jones said Mohammed went to that meeting expecting that the issue of the nature and the basis of his statements about the ethnic composition of the higher ranks of the T&T Police Service would be broached.
He did not go to the meeting, she said, expecting that the question of his dismissal was being considered, and was given no notice of the President’s intention to dismiss him. Jones said unlike in the Gladys Gafoor case, no opportunity was given to Mohammed to prepare a written response, or at any time, other than in the meeting, to respond to either allegations or conclusions the President seemed willing to draw from the allegations.
“The fact that the question of his removal was in the public domain cannot be a substitute for the requirement that he be given some notice that the President was himself considering his removal,” she said. Costs were awarded to Mohammed’s legal team. However, the attorneys will return to court on March 14 to make submissions on the amount of costs to be awarded.
Mohammed called for a public apology from Richards for what he said was damage to his good name “The lesson is, no matter how high the public office you hold, you must adhere to the principles of fairness,” Mohammed said.
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