The State has to pay the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, which operates Central Broadcasting Services Ltd, close to $3 million in damages for its unequal treatment and delay in granting them a FM radio broadcasting licence.
Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh awarded compensatory and vindicatory damages yesterday by way of a video conference at the San Fernando High Court.
This was the end result of a eight-year legal battle between the Maha Sabha and the State regarding the granting of a licence for Radio Jagriti 102.7 FM. Boodoosingh said this case showed discrimination "plain and simple."
He said: "The award was meant primarily to deter public authorities and persons exercising public functions from engaging in or persisting with unequal treatment." Expressing his satisfaction with the sum, the Maha Sabha's general secretary Satnarayan Maharaj called on the State to show good faith and ensure that those who discriminated against the Hindu community and the Maha Sabha were prosecuted.
"We asked the Integrity Commission to investigate this, but the commission is in limbo," he said. "We call on the State to go after the people in Cabinet who did this wrong. Identify those who lied to the court." The Maha Sabha had filed a constitutional motion against the attorney general for inequality of treatment in its failure to grant them a radio broadcasting licence. In a landmark judgment on February 5, 2004, Justice Carlton Best ruled that there was unequal treatment in Central Broadcasting Services' application in relation to Citadel Ltd. The matter was appealed.
The Court of Appeal also found there was unequal treatment. The Maha Sabha sought further redress at the Privy Council. The Judicial Committee ruled, on July 4, 2006, that the State had discriminated against the Maha Sabha and held that its constitutional right to freedom of expression was violated.
The Privy Council ordered the State to grant the licence to the Maha Sabha forthwith. But the Maha Sabha was not awarded the licence until September 22 that year. The assessment hearing for damages in this matter was heard in July for three days. Yesterday, Boodoosingh said he took into consideration among other things the State's delay in dealing with the Maha Sabha's radio licence application in October 2000, as well as the State's unjustified delay in complying with the Privy Council judgment.