A poultry farmer has succeeded in his lawsuit over a two-and-a-half-year delay in deciding on his firearm user’s licence (FUL) application.
Delivering a judgment on Monday, High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad upheld Shiva Boodram’s judicial review lawsuit against the Office of the Police Commissioner.
According to the evidence in the case, in early 2018, Boodram submitted the application as he claimed that he needed a firearm to exterminate pests such as snakes, mongooses, and predatory birds which he claimed were attacking his livestock.
Boodram filed his judicial review lawsuit and was granted leave to pursue it by Justice Rampersad in April 2021.
Almost two weeks later, the Office of the Police Commissioner informed him that his application was denied over his failure to provide evidence of the financial losses he allegedly incurred due to pests. It also contended that the pests could be exterminated without a licenced firearm.
In deciding the case, Justice Rampersad stated that the Firearms Act did not prescribe a time limit for deciding on FUL applications but noted that the Interpretation Act required that public authorities decide on applications before them in a reasonable time.
He stated that the T&T Police Service failed to provide evidence of what caused the delay in processing Boodram’s application.
“Considering the authorities referred to by the parties on the Interpretation Act and what is considered a reasonable time, in the absence of vital details of the process as to the dates of the movement of the application through the stages supported by cogent evidence, which was in the defendant’s purview, the unexplained delay stands to be legitimately viewed as decidedly unreasonable,” Justice Rampersad said.
He also rejected claims that the delay was partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting that public health restrictions for the pandemic began in March 2020, Justice Rampersad said, “There were therefore approximately 18 months when this matter seems to not have been addressed before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions. No explanation was given for that.”
Justice Rampersad made no findings in relation to the denial of Boodram’s application as such was not under challenge in the case. As part of his decision, Justice Rampersad ordered the commissioner’s office to pay Boodram’s legal costs for the lawsuit.
Boodram was represented by Kent Samlal and Abdel Mohammed while Keron Ramkhalawan represented the commissioner’s office.