High Court Says Hindus Discriminated Against by STATE

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha yesterday won their discrimination case against the State after a San Fernando High Court judge declared Cabinet's award of a broadcast licence to PNM supporter Louis Lee Sing amounted to unequal treatment.

San Fernando First Civil Court judge Carlton Best, in a 12-page ruling, said a prima facie case was made out for unequal treatment against the Maha Sabha.

He declared the Maha Sabha had been denied equality of treatment before the law by the State.

The Hindu organisation, through Dr Fenton Ramsahoye QC and attorney Anand Ramlogan, filed a constitutional motion claiming unfair treatment by the State after Citadel Ltd, whose chairman is Lee Sing, was granted a broadcast licence ahead of theirs for i95.5 FM radio station which it operates.

He also awarded redress to the Maha Sabha which will be determined by a Master in Chambers on a date fixed by the Court Registrar.

In addition, the State will have to pay costs for senior and junior counsel.

However, the judge stated there was no need for further declaration that the Maha Sabha had been denied the freedom of expression nor the right to procedural provisions.

Best also declined to give a court order directing Cabinet to grant the Maha Saba a licence.

He said the court considered it "legally perverse that it be asked to make an order that can be interpreted as either coercing the Cabinet into making a decision or usurping the Cabinet's decision power."

The judge added the State's submission of lack of staff, inefficiency in the Public Service, change of venue, political directorate and policy "should not be allowed to stand as justification for the differential treatment meted out to" the Maha Sabha.

The Maha Sabha said it filed an application for a licence on December 1, 1999, and August 10, 2000, but was not given reasons for either the refusal to consider the applications or to not award a licence.

On March 13, 2001, Citadel Ltd sent an application and was granted a licence in less than two days.

Fight against discrimination - Sat


Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj has said the court victory yesterday was not about a radio licence, but discrimination.

At a news conference at the Maha Sabha's headquarters yesterday, Maharaj said discrimination has been the Maha Sabha's complaint for more than 20 years and has been his mantra.

He said he would be asking his attorneys to look at the disbursement of funds to various cultural groups.

"They want to decide what is the culture of this land," he said.

Maharaj said cultural discrimination was more important to the Maha Sabha than getting a radio licence.

"It is not so much about getting another radio licence as its about equality in the administration of T&T," Maharaj said.

"We hope the State will do the honourable thing and correct itself," Maharaj said, adding any government that called itself democratic would have to respond to the judgment.

Attorney Anand Ramlogan said it was incumbent upon Government to remove the sword of discrimination hanging over the Maha Sabha's head and award the organisation the radio licence.

He said the issue was never about money, but fairness and equality of treatment.

Ramlogan said the motivating factor behind the court action was how Citadel was able to leapfrog over the other applicants.

He said they produced documents in court proving that technocrats at the Ministry had recommended both Maha Sabha's applications for a licence.

Ramlogan said there was then a state of suspense, where no applications were granted, until Louis Lee Sing's Citadel Ltd was granted a licence.

However, Ramlogan said his client's grouse was not with Lee Sing nor were they asking for his licence to be cancelled.

Lee Sing speaks

"First of all let me say...that the outcome of the court matter is something I must respect, recognising that there is in fact a Constitution that is working in the country.

When we started Citadel Ltd we were operating under a licence, and through an agreement made with Rene John Sandy, who is the chairman of the Tobago Broadcasting System.

We entered into an arrangement with him which allowed us to used 92.5 FM frequency to begin our radio station.

What transpired subsequently, about six months in operation, there appeared to be some internal wrangling between Sandy and Hilson Phillip.

That naturally saw us in distress, bearing in mind, that collectively Tony Lee, Dale Enoch, Jerome Lewis, Ian Lee and myself had pooled our resources to start and launch I92.

We wrote to the Minister responsible for Telecommunications outlining our case that an application had been in for some time and asking that some consideration be given.

Government responded to our distress call and we were granted a licence."