Former Strategic Services Agency (SSA) director Bisnath Maharaj has won his lawsuit over his premature dismissal in 2015.
Delivering a 17-page judgement in the San Fernando High Court, yesterday morning, Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell ruled that Maharaj’s constitutional right to protection of the law was violated and breached as he was not told of the reasons for his dismissal and given an opportunity to be heard before it was effected.
Donaldson-Honeywell rejected submissions from the Office of the Attorney General that the SSA Act, which established the clandestine intelligence-gathering agency and created the post of director, allowed for his termination at any time.
“The wording of the Act, though clear that termination could occur at any time, does not delve into the procedure to followed in effecting such a termination,” Donaldson-Honeywell said.
She stated that Parliament must have intended that basic procedural fairness and the observance of the rules of natural justice would apply in the absence of clear directives under the legislation.
“In any event, the Act does not provide that the director could be dismissed at any time with or without just cause and without any opportunity to be heard,” she said.
In her judgement, Donaldson-Honeywell granted declarations over the breaches to Maharaj’s constitutional rights. She did not order any compensation as she referred the issue for a High Court Master to assess at a later date.
According to the evidence in the case, Maharaj, a police officer with over 30 years’ service, took a leave of absence after appointed to the post on a two-year contract in 2012.
Maharaj’s contract was extended for three years in 2014 but the qualified attorney-at-law was eventually terminated on November 12, 2015.
Former SSA deputy director Carlton Dennie sued the SSA after a former junior employee Matthew Andrews was appointed to replace Maharaj.
In April, last year, High Court Judge Margaret Mohammed ruled that former national security minister Edmund Dillion acted illegally when he replaced Maharaj with Andrews.
Mohammed ruled that the SSA Act did not provide for the appointment of an interim director, the post given to Andrews before he was eventually given his instrument of appointment in January 2016.
In August, Dennie appeared on a platform at the United National Congress (UNC)’s Monday Night Forum in Debe.
Dennie claimed that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Dillon instructed SSA officials to fire East Indian employees.
After Rowley and Dillion denied any wrongdoing, Dennie changed his tune and claimed that Andrews had issued the directive.
Maharaj was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Gerald Ramdeen, and Jared Jagroo. Douglas Mendes, SC, Michael Quamina, Kristal Madhosingh, and Kadine Matthew represented the AG’s Office.