CJ “concerned” about declaration sought against Police Service Commission; ruling likely by June 18

Chief Justice Roxane George

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC today expressed that she was “concerned” over a declaration being sought against the Police Service Commission (PSC) by Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Brutus.

In December 2020, Brutus through his lawyer, C.V. Satram moved to the High Court to challenge the Police 2020 promotions by the PSC.

Among other things, Brutus contends that he being bypassed for promotion to the rank of Assistant Commissioner even though he was recommended for promotion by the Top Cop and due to frivolous allegations of indiscipline against him for which he has not been called upon to defend.

During another hearing on Monday, the Chief Justice pointed out that Brutus is asking the Court for a declaration that the practice and policy of the PSC utilising disciplinary matters as the basis for denying promotion is unlawful. Justice George noted that she is a “little concerned” about the declaration being sought. “We have to be very, very careful in making a declaration in that frame.”

“I think that it is very, very wide. This is not the only service commission. There are a number of other service commissions and I am very concerned at the breadth of the declaration sought in this regard given the implications not only to this matter but to the entire Public and Teaching Service [Commisison] and for that matter maybe even the Judicial Service Commission,” she added.

Satram has since filed additional submissions on behalf of his client. They have been served on Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, who along with the PSC are the named respondents in the case. Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Kumar who appeared on behalf of the Attorney General requested seven days to file a reply. On Monday, Justice George also addressed the issue of costs.

While Satram said he will leave the issue of costs for the Court to decide, Kumar said that she was instructed that the Attorney General will not be proceeding with costs at this time. The Chief Justice has fixed June 18, 2021, for ruling and/or clarification. At an earlier hearing on April 9, 2021, Justice George had set Monday for ruling and/or clarification.

At that hearing, Justice George noted that since the parties would have failed to arrive at an amicable resolution outside of the court system, it was now necessary for a speedy conclusion given the nature of the case and the fact that “it has been going on for a little while.”

The matter would have started when Brutus complained to the High Court that he is being bypassed for promotion due to frivolous accusations even though he was recommended for promotion by the Commissioner of Police. Following the initial challenge, several other senior officers were added as interested parties.

Brutus among other things is seeking an order of certiorari quashing, nullifying, and/or cancelling the decision of the PSC to promote Senior Superintendents of Police Edmond Cooper, Phillip Azore, and Kurleigh Simon, who like him, have pending disciplinary matters, to the rank of Assistant Commissioner over him.

“The allegation was essentially that I wrote the [then] Minister of State without the permission of the Commissioner of Police,” Brutus complained in an affidavit. According to Brutus, the three ranks who were promoted in front of him are facing more serious allegations.

In an affidavit, Brustus outlined that his colleagues are facing disciplinary and/or criminal investigations for dereliction of duty, facilitation of unlawful activities, perverting the course of justice, corruption by a public officer, among other offences.

“The difference in treatment of ranks who found themselves in the same grouping was substantially and fundamentally unfair, unreasonable, unequal, and discriminatory,” he argued.

According to Brutus, the pending allegations of indiscipline were an irrelevant consideration in the circumstances of his promotion, since he is entitled to the presumption of innocence more so in light of the failure of the PSC to conclude all investigations expeditiously.

Against this backdrop, he argued, too, that the PSC committed an error of law and violated the principle of legality when it acted in a manner that was incompatible with his fundamental right to equality of treatment guaranteed under Article 149 (D) of the Constitution of Guyana.

“The decision of the PSC was an abuse of power. It was an abuse of power and/or an improper exercise of the powers for the PSC to ignore the recommendations of the Commissioner of Police and its own established practice,” said Brutus who joined the Police Force in March 1994.

Brutus noted that he is suitably qualified for and entitled to the promotion as he is better academically qualified than the ranks promoted in front of him. Brutus deposes that he is the holder of a Bachelor of Laws and a degree in Public Management from the University of Guyana.

Apart from these, he added that is also has a Master of Business Administration, a Doctorate in Organisational Development, and is currently pursuing his Legal Education Certificate at the High Wooding Law School in Trinidad.

Besides asking the Court to grant an order overruling the PSC’s practice of not promoting officers with pending disciplinary matters, Brutus wants the Court to award him damages, costs, and such further and other orders the court deems just in the circumstances.

In the meantime, a conservatory order granted by the Chief Justice last December blocking the promotions by the PSC remains in effect until she renders her ruling next month.