SIX weeks before he demits office, the decision of President George Maxwell Richards to terminate the appointment of Nizam Mohammed as chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) has been declared illegal, null, void and of no effect.
Justice Judith Jones, in a judgment delivered in the San Fernando Supreme Court yesterday, found that Mohammed's constitutional rights had been violated.
The judge ruled it was unfair Mohammed was fired by Richards before being given a chance to defend himself against allegations that his statement regarding the ethnic composition of the leadership of the Police Service was irresponsible and amounted to grounds for dismissal.
Mohammed said yesterday he felt "totally vindicated" by the judgment.
"It is now up to the powers that be to assist me in redeeming my good name," he said during a press briefing at his law office in San Fernando.
However, reappointment as chairman of the PSC was not an option, said Mohammed.
He said he not prepared to work with three of the commissioners whose complaint letters formed part of the reason Richards made the decision to terminate him.
Mohammed said he sought no compensation in his lawsuit, but filed the action "for my family and the countless people who felt aggrieved and hurt by the manner in which I was summarily dismissed".
Mohammed said his lawyers broke new ground "where many felt no one can challenge the actions of individuals who hold certain high office. This is a lesson for all who hold high office—that they must operate within the law, on the basis of legal principles and guidelines, rather than based on political pressure".
Mohammed filed a constitutional motion, in December 2011, challenging the President's decision to revoke his appointment.
Mohammed submitted that on March 25 of that year, he and the other four members of the PSC attended a meeting in the Parliamentary Chamber of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) appointed to consider and report to the Parliament on service commissions.
At the meeting, statements were made concerning the issue of ethnic composition of the top most level of the Police Service and the Promotions Advisory Board of the Police Service.
The judge noted that Mohammed's statement generated great public controversy and there were calls for his dismissal in the newspaper and electronic media.
Mohammed had submitted that he made the statement in his capacity as PSC chairman, under the cloak and protection of parliamentary privilege, and was of the belief the issue required mature and dispassionate discussion and consideration.
Three days after he made the statement, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement which stated, in part, that Mohammed "must be held accountable for his inflammatory and unwise statements".
On April 1, Mohammed was called to a meeting with Richards, who informed him he (Richards) had consulted with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, and had received two letters from three members of the PSC complaining about Mohammed's chairmanship.
Mohammed submitted that he told Richards the public reaction and the statement from the Prime Minister were the result of inflammatory newspaper headlines, and not based on the statements he, in fact, made.
Mohammed said he was told his reference to the ethnic composition in the Police Service could amount to irresponsibility, and asked for two weeks to consult with his lawyers, preferably those in the United Kingdom.
Mohammed said he was told by the President he could not wait that long, and was given until April 4.
Around 10.30 a.m. on April 4, Mohammed stated, Government Information Service Ltd issued a media release stating his appointment as chairman of the PSC had been revoked, and he received a letter confirming the revocation.
Prof Ramesh Deosaran was later appointed chairman of the PSC.
Mohammed's lawsuit challenged whether the President's decision was procedurally correct. As part of his defence, President Richards submitted an affidavit, which contained documents he used to arrive at his revocation decision.
Mohammed successfully argued he was given no reasonable opportunity to respond to the matters raised by Richards, or what was contained in the letters sent by members of the PSC.
Justice Jones also agreed Mohammed did not get the opportunity to provide Richards with a legal opinion so that Richards could consider whether the matters alleged against Mohammed fell within the constitutional grounds for termination.
Justice Jones said Richards used Mohammed's statement at the meeting of the JSC and the representations of the three complaining commissioners to make "certain conclusions as to their effect in law, namely, that these facts amounted to a failure by (Mohammed) to perform his duties in a responsible matter and demonstrated a lack of competence to perform his duties".
Jones stated, "Looking at these facts objectively, I am satisfied 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. To my mind, the circumstances under which the decision was reached, when examined objectively, do not demonstrate 'fair play in act'."
Jones also stated it was not for the court to determine whether the President's decision was right or wrong, "but whether the circumstances under which it was made afforded (Mohammed) a proper opportunity to answer the case made out against him. I do not think so".
Mohammed was represented by Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, instructed by attorneys Garnet Mungalsingh, Rishi Dass and Sasha Bridgemohansingh.
The Attorney General was defended by Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan, Gerald Ramdeen,Varun Debideen and Deowattee Dilraj-Batoosingh. • See Page 8