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Ministry employee to get $ after bypassed for promotion

Saturday, June 23, 2018
Forestry officer Vijay Singh outside the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain on Thursday. Photo by:Derek Achong

The Court of Appeal has ordered compensation to a former national scholarship awardee, who was bypassed for promotion because his degree was not recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries.

Delivering an oral judgment at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain earlier this week, Appellate Judges Allan Mendonca, Peter Jamadar and Peter Rajkumar ruled that Vijay Singh’s constitutional right to equality of treatment from a public authority was breached as the ministry had promoted his co-workers with the same degree in Resource, Recreation and Tourism from the University of Idaho.

In deciding the case, the judges looked at the promotion of three of Singh’s colleagues and questioned why he was treated differently. While they ruled that seniority may have been a factor, they said that should not have made him ineligible for promotion.

“No acceptable explanation has been given for the failure to treat him similarly,” Jamadar said.

As part of the ruling, the judges ordered that Singh receive compensation for his loss of opportunity at being promoted and for the inconvenience he suffered. They also declared that he should be eligible for promotion for the post of Assistant Conservator of Forests.

The compensation is to be calculated by High Court Judge Ronnie Boodoosingh, who dismissed the case, last year.

In the second limb of his lawsuit, Singh challenged the ministry’s delay in determining whether his degree was recognised as an equivalent to a degree in forestry, which was required for the post. While the ministry stated it was not, in a letter to Singh in 2014, it also sought clarification on the issue from the Public Service Commission. The ministry was unable to give an answer even as the appeal was heard.

The judges ruled that the ministry’s delay was both unfair and unreasonable.

They noted that in 2006, Singh applied to study at the University of Guyana but was told by the then Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education that his scholarship did not cover studies at that institution.

His decision to study in the United States was based on the ministry’s advice and because that institution was recognised by the Accreditation Council of T&T. As part of their judgment, the court ordered the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs determine the status of the accreditation of the degree. They also ordered that the State pay Singh’s legal costs for the lawsuit.

Singh was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Gerald Ramdeen and Ganesh Saroop.


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