Deadline set for DPP in Maha Sabha case

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) has been giv­en un­til 4 pm to­day to de­cide if it will agree to not in­sti­tute sedi­tion charges against Sanatan Dhar­ma Ma­ha Sab­ha (SDMS) sec­re­tary gen­er­al Sat­narayan Ma­haraj pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of his nov­el con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge against this coun­try's colo­nial-age sedi­tion leg­is­la­tion.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Ma­haraj and SDMS me­dia house Cen­tral Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices first made the re­quest to DPP Roger Gas­pard, SC, on Mon­day but de­cid­ed to send a fol­low-up let­ter as he had not re­spond­ed up to this morn­ing.

In the let­ters, their lawyer Kavi­ta Roop-Boodoo re­ferred to Sec­tions 4, 5 and 14 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which she said gives the High Court the pow­er to make or­ders to pro­tect the rights of cit­i­zens pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of their law­suits over their fun­da­men­tal rights.

Roop-Boodoo said if the DPP fails to re­spond by the dead­line, her clients will seek an in­junc­tion on the is­sue.

The let­ter came hours af­ter po­lice ex­e­cut­ed a sec­ond search war­rant at the com­pa­ny's com­pound on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The first was ex­e­cut­ed af­ter Ma­haraj made a se­ries of in­cen­di­ary state­ments on his Ma­ha Sab­ha Strikes Back pro­gramme on TV Jaagri­ti on April 15. Ma­haraj claimed cit­i­zens liv­ing in To­ba­go are lazy and la­belled the men as rapists.

The Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­i­ty of T&T (TATT) is­sued a warn­ing to Ma­haraj and the com­pa­ny over the com­ments which are now be­ing chal­lenged by them in a sep­a­rate law­suit. Ma­haraj and the com­pa­ny have al­so ini­ti­at­ed le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) for fail­ing to dis­close the war­rant used for the search. The TTPS has main­tained that the war­rant was law­ful­ly ob­tained and ex­e­cut­ed but has re­fused to dis­close it to them un­less it is or­dered to do.

While no crim­i­nal charges have been brought against Ma­haraj, he sug­gest­ed that such is in­evitable while ad­dress­ing sup­port­ers at SDMS In­di­an Ar­rival Day cel­e­bra­tions last month.

In a con­sti­tu­tion­al mo­tion law­suit, Ma­haraj's lawyers are claim­ing the leg­is­la­tion, which was passed in 1920 and amend­ed sev­er­al times be­tween 1961 and 1976, breach­es cit­i­zens' con­sti­tu­tion­al rights to free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion, free­dom of the press and free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion and as­sem­bly.

They ar­gued that Sec­tion 3 and 6 of the leg­is­la­tion, which de­fines a sedi­tious in­ten­tion and the pub­li­ca­tion of such, is un­pre­dictable and al­lows for dis­crim­i­na­tion.

In or­der to suc­ceed in the claim, Ma­haraj's lawyers must al­so get past the leg­is­la­tion's sav­ing clause, which pre­cludes it from ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion ex­cept in sce­nar­ios when it can be found in­com­pat­i­ble with the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion and can­not be jus­ti­fied in the pub­lic's in­ter­est.

They con­tend that the sav­ings clause was on­ly meant for a lim­it­ed pe­ri­od of time and should be de­clared un­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic and un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.

The law­suit is sched­uled to come up for hear­ing be­fore Jus­tice Frank Seep­er­sad on Ju­ly 8.

Reporter: Derek Achong