Judge tells Sat: Reconsider lawsuit against DPP in sedition charges

Sanatan Dhar­ma Ma­ha Sab­ha (SDMS) sec­re­tary gen­er­al Sat­narayan Ma­haraj has been asked to re­con­sid­er his ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion seek­ing to bar the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) from in­sti­tut­ing sedi­tion charges against him pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of his nov­el con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge against this coun­try’s colo­nial-age sedi­tion leg­is­la­tion.

High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad made the sug­ges­tion as Ma­haraj’s in­junc­tion ap­pli­ca­tion came up for hear­ing be­fore him at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Seep­er­sad sug­gest­ed that the ap­pli­ca­tion may be pre­ma­ture as DPP Roger Gas­pard, SC, was not list­ed as a par­ty in Ma­haraj’s con­sti­tu­tion­al mo­tion and on­ly re­spond­ed to his ini­tial re­quest on Mon­day evening.

In the let­ter, which was ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia, Gas­pard stat­ed that Ma­haraj’s re­quest “pre-sup­pos­es” that he had been asked to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion on whether Ma­haraj should be charged. Un­der Sec­tion 9 of the Sedi­tion Act, sedi­tion charges can on­ly be brought with the writ­ten con­sent of the DPP.

“I am not aware of any de­ter­mi­na­tion be­ing made by the po­lice with re­spect to charges nor have I been asked by the po­lice to con­sent to any pro­ceed­ings against your client,” Gas­pard said, as claimed that it would be im­prop­er to give such an un­der­tak­ing.

Re­fer­ring to Gas­pard’s re­sponse, Seep­er­sad sug­gest­ed that a sep­a­rate ju­di­cial re­view law­suit chal­leng­ing Gas­pard’s de­ci­sion may be more ap­pro­pri­ate in the cir­cum­stances.

Ma­haraj’s lawyer Ramesh Lawrence Ma­haraj, SC, seemed to ac­cept the pro­pos­al as he stat­ed that it would be “very un­like­ly” that his client would pur­sue the in­junc­tion ap­pli­ca­tion fur­ther.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Se­nior Coun­sel Fyard Ho­sein, who is rep­re­sent­ing the State in the sub­stan­tive con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge, said that he want­ed to ex­pe­dite the case to have it heard and de­ter­mined be­fore the end of the year.

Seep­er­sad agreed as he set aside dates in No­vem­ber when sub­mis­sions can be made.

The par­ties are ex­pect­ed to de­cide on a hear­ing date when they re­turn be­fore Seep­er­sad on Ju­ly 8. Ma­haraj is al­so ex­pect­ed to in­di­cate whether he still de­sires to pur­sue the in­junc­tion ap­pli­ca­tion.

The le­gal chal­lenge arose af­ter po­lice ex­e­cut­ed a search war­rant on the SDMS’s me­dia com­pa­ny Cen­tral Broad­cast­ing Ser­vices in late April.

The search was re­lat­ed to con­tro­ver­sial state­ments made by Ma­haraj on his Ma­ha Sab­ha Strikes Back pro­gramme on TV Jaagri­ti on April 15.

Ma­haraj claimed that 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 is 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) over 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 so at the end of the law­suit.

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

Po­lice ex­e­cut­ed a sec­ond search war­rant on the com­pa­ny, last Thurs­day.

Ma­haraj is al­so be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Jagdeo Singh, Di­nesh Ram­bal­ly, Kiel Tak­lals­ingh, Ste­fan Ramkissoon and Kavi­ta Roop-Boodoo.

About Ma­haraj’s law­suit

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

They stat­ed 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.

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

They al­so claim that the colo­nial leg­is­la­tion has been re­moved from sev­er­al Com­mon­wealth coun­tries and even in the Unit­ed King­dom.

Reporter: Derek Achong

 

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