Equal Opportunity Tribunal chair appeals Veera Bhajan ruling

Veera Bhajan
Veera Bhajan

CHAIRMAN of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal Donna Prowell-Raphael has complained of the decision of the judge who ruled in favour of lay assessor Veera Bhajan in an appeal filed earlier this week.

On Monday, attorneys for the chairman filed the appeal, which contains several grounds of complaints against Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams’ ruling on November 23.

The EoT has said it will not appeal the ruling.

Prowell-Raphael appealed against the entire decision of the judge, who ordered that Veera Bhajan should receive compensation for the failure by the EoT and the chairman to comply with her presidential appointment, made on March 17.

The judge also ruled the action of the tribunal and its chairman was unlawful and done in bad faith. She also ordered the two to comply with the appointment and granted an injunction restraining any attempt to prevent Bhajan from taking up her duties as lay assessor.

Prowell-Raphael wants an order setting aside the judge’s decision and one to dismiss Bhajan’s original judicial review claim.

Alternatively, she wants the matter to be reassigned to a new judge.

In her appeal, the EoT’s chairman alleges the judge erred in law, acted without jurisdiction, and demonstrated apparent bias in her conduct of the proceedings and in her decision.

She also complained about the judge’s comments, which the appeal said were “excessive” and exceeded the reasonable bounds of judicial criticism.

The appeal referred to the statements the judge made in the oral reading of her decision, particularly those aimed at Prowell-Raphael. The judge had asked if the chairman would “reflect on whether she is the best fit for the chair of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.”

The chairman also complained about the judge’s reference to the lyrics of local dancehall artist General Grant.

“The learned judge erred in law and/or acted with and demonstrated apparent bias by delivering an oral ruling and/or making comments and/or findings in relation to the appellant’s character, professional standing, and conduct that was unjustified, unsupported by evidence, not relevant to the issues arising in the proceedings, and an inappropriate exercise of judicial authority.”

The appeal also said the judge knew her decision would be widely published and reported in the media, but did not provide sufficient reasons for her findings.

It also said the judge erred when she rejected the evidence of the chairman, which remained untested, as Prowell-Raphael was not cross-examined at the trial.

It further noted there was no basis in law to award damages, and the judge failed to consider the evidence of the tribunal and the chairman that Bhajan’s appointment could not be facilitated because the tribunal was closed as a result of logistical, infrastructural, and financial constraints.

This evidence, the appeal, said was inconsistent with the judge’s findings of “bad faith, hatred, viciousness, and...the appellant being unfit for the office of chairman of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.”

The appeal also faulted the judge for not considering that the chairman’s concerns over Bhajan’s appointment were not a decision not to give effect to the appointment, but arose as part of her consultative duty.

It also mentioned the invitation extended to Bhajan to meet when the tribunal reopened to determine when her appointment could be facilitated, and also the judge's failure to consider that the lay assessor had a duty to provide her curriculum vitae to the court to substantiate her claim that Prowell-Raphael acted in bad faith.

Prowell-Raphael is represented by attorneys Ramesh Lawrence-Maharaj, Kiel Tacklalsingh, Leon Kalicharan and Karina Singh.


"Equal Opportunity Tribunal chair appeals Veera Bhajan ruling"

More in this section