Saturday, May 4, 2013

Maha Sabha challenges DPP on decision not to charge Manning on radio licence matter

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) is threatening to take legal action against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is Roger Gaspard fails to reconsider his decision to not pursue criminal charges against former prime minister Patrick Manning in the radio licence matter.

The SDMS sent a latter to the DPP, dated May 3, 2013 from its attorney Jagdeo Singh in which it criticises Gaspard’s decision, noting that the DPP was wrong to reject the evidence given by public servants.

Singh stated that there was sufficient evidence to initiate criminal proceedings against Manning and former People’s National Movement (PNM) government minister Hedwige Bereaux

The PNM rejected the Maha Sabha’s application for a radio licence while it granted one 
to Citadel Ltd, formerly owned by Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing.

The Maha Sabha took the matter all the way to the Privy Council and won. The ruling stated that the state discriminated against the SDMS.

Based on the Privy Council ruling, the SDMS wrote to the Integrity Commission, which investigated the matter and forwarded its report the DPP in 2010.

The DPP determined that "although there was evidence of inequality of treatment in the granting of a licence to Citadel Ltd, which is a breach of a constitutional right, this evidence does not meet the higher standard of proof required for proof of a criminal offence, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt; nor is the evidence sufficient to prove all the different elements of the offence of misconduct/misbeha­viour in public office”.

The DPP had also noted that Manning had suffered two strokes and has had heart surgery as reasons for not prosecuting the former PM, saying the offence is unlikely to be repeated. 

Singh's letter to the DPP stated, “Whilst my client have noted your observations that the evidence discloses no breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act my client wishes to record its strongest disagreement with those views and wishes to ask whether you have considered whether the evidence discloses some other breach of the criminal law of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Singh pointed out that Gaspard should have taken into account Section 24 of the act as it relates to misconduct in public office that states that where a person "administers the public resources for which he is responsible in an effective and efficient manner and shall (a) be fair and impartial in exercising his public duty; (b) afford no undue preferential treatment to any group or individual."

Singh also asked questions about Manning's health issue:
  • Who is the source of your medical evidence on the health of Mr Manning?
  • Was any medical evidence presented for your consideration?
  • Did you act on newspaper reports alone?
  • What steps did you take to verify the accuracy of the medical evidence?
  • Whether you have exercised this discretionary power in the past?
  • If yes, in what cases and what was the nature of the medical evidence you acted upon?
The lawyer pointed out that former prime minister Basdeo Panday and Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr are quite ill, “yet your office continues to prosecute these aged and ill men in contradiction to the stand you are adopting in the instant case. The question must be whether you have applied this consideration evenly.

“My clients are of the view that you, being a public authority, are duty-bound to disclose this information to them so that they may feel satisfied that this is indeed a legitimate exercise of your power,” stated Singh.

“In the circumstances, my clients feel aggrieved by your decision and intend to approach the courts to have this decision reviewed. In the meantime we await the specific disclosure requested of you.”

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai